Attempts on her Life by Martin Crimp

Part of the Ignition Fringe Festival, Hamilton

Directed by Gaye Poole

24 - 26 June 2009

Attempts to describe her? Attempts to destroy her? Or attempts to destroy herself? Is Anne the object of violence? Or its terrifying practitioner? Martin Crimp’s 17 scenarios for the theatre, shocking and hilarious by turn, are a rollercoaster of early 21st century obsessions. From ethnic violence to pornography, from terrorism to singles vacations…. its strange array of nameless characters attempt to invent the perfect story to encapsulate our time. Since its premiere at the Royal Court Theatre, London, in March 1997, Attempts on her Life has been translated into more than 20 languages.

This is an enigmatic play: each scenario can be played by a varying number of speakers, there is no plot, the script only designates a change of speaker, there are virtually no stage directions….all a matter interpretation.  What holds the seventeen ‘scenarios for the theatre’ together is their subject: the mysterious Anne/Annie/Anya/Annushka. Over the course of the play Anne never appears; instead various figures discuss her life. Anne could perhaps be an international terrorist, a victim of violence, an underage porno star or even an expensive car. In the end, we can’t be sure if she is any of these… a missing person, the girl next door, or even dead or alive, real or fictional.

Theatre meets art installation meets multi-media… Attempts on Her Life is a boundary-breaking work that has been hailed throughout Europe as a performance masterpiece. Attempts on Her Life leaves us guessing – and guessing about our own reality in the age of global capital and media culture.

Attempts on her Life is not about discovering the truth of Anne’s identity, but the process by which we discover the truth. The play is after the big question: How is it that we come to know the Other? Crimp suggests that the process of knowing is never a neutral one, and in fact that the subject perpetuates a violence on the object that it seeks to know. It is no coincidence that the object of investigation in this play is a woman, since the female Other has been the object of the male gaze since time immemorial.

‘The piece has a kaleidoscopic vigour…he may have dispensed plot and characters, but he has proved that the act of theatre can still survive if it is propelled by moral fervour.’ Guardian

‘An enigma in motion, a dramatisation of obsession and detachment.’ Sunday Times

Production Team

Direction/design: Gaye Poole
Lighting/stage management: Alec Forbes
Art installations: Christine Melchior
Graphic design (posters/cards): Mary Faber


Oliver Barratt
Vanessa Belk
Bettina Fahrhöfer
Lydia Foley
Michael Forde
Keagan Fransch
Jenna Hudson
Clive Lamdin
Tammy Tubic
Bella-Anne Wheeler

About the playwright:

Martin Crimp was born in 1956. His plays include Definitely the Bahamas (1987), Dealing with Clair (1988), Play with Repeats (1989), No One Sees the Video (1990), Getting Attention (1991), The Treatment (winner of the 1993 John Whiting Award), Attempts on her Life (1997), The Country (2000), Face to the Wall (2002), Cruel and Tender (2004) and Fewer Emergencies (2005). He has a longstanding relationship with London’s Royal Court theatre. Crimp has translated works by Koltès, Genet, Marivaux, Molière, Ionesco (Rhinoceros) and Chekhov (The Seagull). His most recent play The City was staged at The Royal Court in 2008. He is the subject of Aleks Sierz’s 2006 book The Theatre of Martin Crimp. 

About our process:

The attraction of Martin Crimp’s plays, for me, lies in how they allow the audience to create their own story.  We originally staged Crimp’s ’17 scenarios for the theatre’ at the Playhouse, Academy of Performing Arts in early June. This restaging for Ignition involved recasting two actors; Keagan and Michael have fitted into ‘Crimpland’ with ease. The process of working with Attempts asked of the cast an unusual degree of engagement, curiosity and patience. Presented with Crimp’s text they were simultaneously puzzled and exhilarated by the openness of the text. A play with a central ‘character’ who never appears…no named characters…no indication of locations…no stage directions… no guide to who is speaking… or how many speakers are in the scenario…or whether the speakers are male or female.

Gaye Poole