Don’t Panic! It’s Challenge Anneka

Being both a chronic worrier and a huge fan of television from the 1990s, I had high hopes for Don't Panic! It's Challenge Anneka: a one woman show that uses the programme, Challenge Anneka, as a springboard by which to explore anxiety. I'm thrilled to say the production didn't disappoint.

It's truthful, it's moving and, like Anneka, it never loses its resilient, funny and upbeat perspective.

From a technical standpoint, the show was a delight. Not only did actor, Sophie Winter, remain onstage for the duration of the performance, she also appeared as a myriad of characters on the screen behind her (a screen, incidentally, which was made to look like a vintage TV set!) Frequent conversations took place between 'Stage Sophie' and 'Screen Sophie' and the precise timing that was required to make this work never failed to impress.

Audience interaction was also handled superbly. Any character Sophie played onstage exuded such warmth that we instantly wanted to support and interact with them. In fact, when protagonist, Holly, displayed what it was like to have an anxiety attack, many members of the audience came to her aid, eagerly offering sweets, fans and cartons of Ribena, in a bid to alleviate her symptoms. That we were made to care about this character and want to help her is a testament to the incredibly strong connection Sophie Winters establishes with her audience.

More impressive than its technical mastery, or the fantastic performance of its solo actor, was the sensitive and insightful way in which the theme of anxiety was handled. A particularly strong moment was when the guilt-ridden Holly began to argue with herself, struggling to comprehend how someone born into a relatively privileged background can even feel anxiety in the first place. When Holly's dark and suppressed thoughts came to the surface, I found myself admiring the honesty that clearly went into devising these segments. Had these more problematic moments been explored further (perhaps replacing some of the comic ' caricature' segments) the show might have been even more powerful.

Certainly, it's a show I'd urge anyone to go and see: it's truthful, it's moving and, like Anneka, it never loses its resilient, funny and upbeat perspective. 

Reviews by Alan Stewart

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Performances

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The Blurb

Bumbag? Check. Luminescent shell suit? Check. Positive attitude in the face of seemingly insurmountable challenges? Hell yeah! Inspired by real life stories, this is a frank, funny and open exploration of a topic that too often remains taboo: the challenge of overcoming anxiety. Join award-winning company on the button for this rollercoaster of a one-woman show, which channels the spirit of someone for whom no challenge is too big: Don’t Panic! It’s Challenge Anneka. ‘A must-see’ ***** (OneStopArts.com, on No Place Like).