Colin Hoult / Anna Mann in How We Stop the Fascists

Anna Mann is, according to herself, the greatest actress of her generation—a quote she can now legitimately edit for future Fringe posters with no fear of censor. Yet is this former star of “terribly polite” political play No More War, Please really the right person to show us how to stop the rise of right wing politics? After a glorious hour in her company, it’s clear to say that—wonder of wonders—she is.

She’s not just a pretty face, that Anna Mann.

Given the seriousness of the global situation in which we find ourselves, Anna’s solution is to educate through verbatim theatre. On our behalf she has travelled the UK—well, a few places in England—to speak with ordinary people, and now performs what they said for our education. We have a welcome return of “57, white male man” Nick, with his vocal ticks and behavioural blind-spots; two northern ladies totally confused about the charities they support; and zombie-obsessed Nottingham hard-man Andy Parker. For balance, there’s one Cheryl Glass, a Labour Party Momentum member with clear anger issues.

This gives Anna Mann’s creator, Colin Hoult, a succession of opportunities to stretch his acting chops. He does so with relish and a massive dash of welcome audience interaction. Anna may claim to have “literally done no research”, but it’s clear that Colin has—or at least spent some time thinking about the possibility that many of our fellow citizens feel left behind by the changing world, and aren’t happy about it. Anna Mann isn’t also above a few “clever” tricks to show us just how easy it is for us all to slip into Nazi ways of thinking.

Always willing to “push the envelope”, not least when channeling Hitler, Anna Mann is happy to play with our expectations, and our willingness to do what we’re told—playing with that unbalanced power relationship between artist and audience. While her final solution to how we stop the fascists is all you might expect from this kind of show, it’s well worth thinking about all the same. She’s not just a pretty face, that Anna Mann.

Reviews by Paul F Cockburn

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The Blurb

Having effectively cured all depression in last year’s smash-hit hour that was 'funnier than almost all other shows at the Fringe' (**** Telegraph), actress Anna Mann returns to take on the terrifying rise of fascism. Fear not, gentle liberals, mother Mann is here. 'Deliciously funny' **** (Times). 'Smart, absurd and unpredictable' **** (Chortle.co.uk). **** (List). ***** (EdFringeReview.com). As seen in Porridge (BBC Two), Murder in Successville (BBC Three) and Anna's own Sky Arts Valentine’s Short.

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