Polly Stenham’s writing has the ability to jolt her audience into foreseeing so much more than what is witnessed within the moment. Last week, Royal Wootton Bassett based Quirky Bird Theatre performed Stenham’s ‘That Face’, (At Alma Theatre, Bristol) a play exploring the dysfunctional push-pull dance of a particular family dynamic, along with its brazen blurring of boundaries.
Anna Friend’s incredibly sensitive artistic direction of this piece is invaluable in giving genuine voice to the issues of abandonment, beliefs and values, the parental role and individual and collective accountability. This is a deeply accurate portrayal of one family’s never-ending fight for secure attachment within a precariously imbalanced system.
Louise Thomas’s portrayal of self-indulgent, tormented soul Martha, is superb in its stark revelation that adulthood doesn’t always equate with maturity. Henry, played by Jamie Carter, is no more than an extension of his mother, though he clings to the hope of a normal relationship, if only he knew what normal was. Jamie plays this role both beautifully and believably. Louise and Jamie’s performances are the key force by which everything else is unlocked, like a well-oiled cog, driving the mechanics of the play smoothly and effortlessly towards its full expression. It takes genuine talent to perform such a lack of control in a controlled way as to draw the audience into your world, one which evokes strong emotion and discussion that lasts way beyond the performance.
The awesome supporting cast of Amie Olive (Mia), Rosie Walker (Izzy), Doug Kirby (Hugh) and Yazmin Priestner-Burton/Amy Field (Alice), each give portrayals which are of the highest calibre.
This play is rawness magnified, yet delicately interspersed with tender moments and humour, that leave you hoping and wishing for more, especially a happy ending.
The use of minimal stage props and streamlined set changes is clever in that it greatly enhances the emphasis being on each individual performance more than anything else.
My thanks go to the cast and crew, especially Anna Friend, David Jell, Pamela Giraud-Telme and everyone involved in this brave, wonderfully acted production.
‘That Face’ will be performing at Swindon Arts Centre on 7th and 8th July 2017.