Skip to main content

Review of That Face by Polly Stenham performed by The Masque Theatre at the Playhouse Theatre, Northampton

As millions were sitting down to watch the misery of EastEnders and its big reveal of Lucy's killer, A Small Mind ventured out to the theatre for some light relief. Yeah right!

That Face by Polly Stenham is generally as far from light relief as you could imagine, like the aforementioned soap being unshackled by its pre-watershed needs, this was gritty family drama in the extreme. Long before the play begins those who had made their way to their seats early get the chance to see curtain up and a girl sitting bound and masked in a chair. Moments of 50 Shades fears aside, its clear that we are seeing one of the unluckiest actresses you could imagine. Destined to be in two scenes with no lines, the first of which involves her being mauled about no end, its a thankless role, which todays actress of pain Julie Hicks plays very well. Suffering for her art indeed.

Doing the mauling are boarding school "buddies" Mia (Amber Mae) and mad as a box of frogs Izzy (Clare Balbi). Mia is part of the family of the play, and her initial antics with Izzy and their victim Alice are what weaves us into the play and heralds latterly the return of father Hugh (Martin Williams). The torture of Alice is made worse from her use of drugs acquired from her pill popping and alcoholic mother Martha (Patricia Coleman). Add into the mix Mia's brother and school drop-out Henry (Luke Nunn) and you have everything you need for an explosive family saga.

Coleman and Nunn are the standout performances of the show, partly due to their having the stronger defined roles of Polly Stenham's piece. The relationship is really quite a bizarre one, bordering at times on the incestuous but constantly a creepy one as Martha's "Mummy" decline looks like taking out her son in the fallout. There is more than a hint of Blanche DuBois in Martha's decline and the eventual resolution edges towards a very familiar, but modern edged path. Coleman is superb in the role, cavorting and writhing constantly across the centre-piece bed. Her breakdown is totally believable.

The character of Henry was originally played by Matt Smith and watching the role you could truly see him in it, this is as much a credit to Nunn as the written piece itself, as he has more than a suggestion of Smith in his performance. Those scenes of him jumping around on the bed are very much the work of Smith's nervous energy in his performance and Nunn does the same. From an initial gentle portrayal at the start of the play, through his sexual awakening and disgust at his mothers reaction to it and drunken decline, Nunn goes through all the emotions and is one to keep an eye on for the future.

Quality support comes from Mae, Balbi and Williams in their admittedly lesser roles. Mae effectively a distraught witness to the events despite causing half of it, while Balbi confident as the slightly dizzy Izzy and sexual predator stalking her prey. Williams adds the controlled elder statesman's act towards the end, all posturing, posing and controlling as he crashes the chaotic party.

First time Masque director Gary Amos has created a solid, near professional production with his talented six players and comes highly recommended. Don't sit at home watching that soap opera, go see some meaty drama live in front of your eyes.


Performance reviewed: Thursday 19th February, 2015 at the Playhouse Theatre, Northampton. 

That Face is performed by the Masque Theatre and runs until Saturday 21st February, 2015 at the Playhouse Theatre, Northampton.

Details can be found at http://www.masquetheatre.co.uk/

Comments

  1. Thank you so much for a wonderful review. I'm humbled and thrilled you enjoyed the production.

    Gary Amos (Director)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. My pleasure. Thanks for an excellent, if tough at times, evening.

      Delete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Review of Rules For Living at Royal & Derngate (Royal), Northampton

It is possibly a rule in life for a few in the audience for the opening night of Sam Holcroft's domestic comedy Rules For Living not to mention Christmas until December. Therefore anyone of such a persuasion might have been a little perturbed to be presented on the 13th September with, an undeniably brilliantly dressed, homely Christmas scene.

Opening up in glorious dollhouse style and on a gorgeous little hinge, this little home of living room and kitchen sets the scene for a typical family Christmas. Mother Edith (Jane Booker) welcomes her sons, Matthew (Jolyon Coy) and Adam (Ed Hughes) and their respective partners, Carrie (Carlyss Peer) and Nicole (Laura Rogers) And with a final dramatic arrival of father Francis (Paul Shelley), the scene is very much set for comic antics of the highest calibre.

The first thing you get from Rules For Living in the first few minutes is the arrival of one of the most brilliant, yet simple concepts I have seen for a while in the play. These are …

Review of Make Way For Lucia by John Van Druten at The Playhouse Theatre, Northampton

There have been a couple of television versions of the Mapp & Lucia novels by E. F. Benson over the years and irrespective of which generation version you might have seen, the roles of Miss Mapp and Mrs. Lucas were filled with some heavyweight performers. So taking on these roles could, in theory, be a challenge too much to live up to. However, that would be if the characters themselves were less the sum of the performer. These are great characters on paper as well as on stage and therefore Gena McCrystal (Miss Mapp) and Juliet O'Connor (Lucia) make them very much their own in the stage adaption by John Van Druten.

Lucia has arrived and breezed both into the town of Tilling and the musical chair roundabout of house rental that is want to occur here. Her rented property is Miss Mapp's and for some reason, Mapp fails to follow the routine of keeping away, constantly "popping in", so the battle lines are drawn.
Make Way for Lucia is the typical battle of supremacy i…

Review of Once Upon A Grimm Tale by The Royal & Derngate Actors Company (Early) at Judge's Lodgings, Northampton

Once upon a time, there was a brave theatrical reviewer. He lived in a market town in deepest darkest Englaland, where many great and remarkable things of stage did occur. At the centre of this wondrous world of performing spectacles was a place referred to by many as the Royal Derngatus, a place of people pretending to be other people and telling tales of mystery, intrigue and frolics.

Within the fortressed walls of Royal Derngatus, there were a group of fearless players who entertained local folk for no reward, other than the thrill of seeing the joy in the faces of others. Those group of artists went by the name of Actors Companus, which many pronounced carefully when they did say it out loud. This group of merry men and women did have two forms, an early and a late, and but two days before this adventurous evening of forthcoming storytelling, the late group did perform for a third and final time a most amazing feat of theatre, going by the name of Great Expectations.


Our hero of thi…