+3 Review: Don’t Panic! It’s Challenge Anneka (Summerhall: 5-28 Aug: 14.50: 1hr)

“A beautiful and emotional journey”

Editorial Rating: 4 Stars: Outstanding

Much like deviser and performer Sophie Winter, I was also a huge fan of the TV programme Challenge Anneka in the 90s, so I couldn’t miss the chance to see a show featuring my favourite presenter from yesteryear. As the audience enters, Winter embodies her heroine – complete with bright jumpsuit, blonde wig and bumbag – welcoming us to the performance and offering treats. It’s a great way to set the tone as one of comfort, support, nostalgia and togetherness.

The piece follows the story of Holly – someone who suffers from anxiety – and we learn what brings it on and how it affects her and those around her. Anneka soon arrives on the scene to help restore Holly to her former happy self, and her challenge unfolds throughout the performance. Winter plays every character throughout the piece, showing great dexterity in capturing personas of people we can all relate to, including the boss who doesn’t listen, the doctor who uses too much technical jargon and the mum who tries to help buy doesn’t really understand.

The performance uses a lot of video, played through an oversized TV on stage, which, as well as demonstrating the level of care and attention put into this piece, allows Winter (as Holly) to react to these characters, and for us to see and feel these reactions close up. Holly comes right into the audience at times, showing her to be just another person like us, and it’s really engaging to see her honest and personal accounts and every side of suffering from anxiety.

I have to say that structurally I did get a little lost and at times I couldn’t quite tell when or where the action was taking place. But this a show where narrative is far less important than the beautiful and emotional journey we are taken on. The overall soul and spirit are absolutely intact and it is a real joy to experience.

As Winter points out at the end, there is no grand resolution to Holly’s anxiety, and that it may well be with her for the rest of her life. Drawing parallels with Anneka Rice’s challenges, the overall message of the piece is that just because a first big step is achieved, that doesn’t mean that the problem is solved. Ongoing support, nurturing, care and hard work are still required, and I think it’s right that this is highlighted, as it shows a real connection and openness with the subject matter.

An important an enjoyable work, on a highly topical subject matter. Please go and see it.



Reviewer: Steve Griffin (Seen 14 August)

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