That Face by Polly Stenham @ Etcetera in Camden

‘That Face’ is a play by Polly Stenham, that seems to be driven by the message that ‘money can’t buy you love’ as Stenham looks at the dysfunctional relationship of an upper class family. She tentatively examines the relationship between the family members and how alcohol and drugs have moulded their lives. Most concerning is the incestual bond between mother and son, that reaches the height of ridiculousness as the son reveals his recent sexual activity, to which the mother jealously sucks onto his neck, like a vampire in despair.


The fierce intensity of the play and it’s characters was reinforced by the close proximity of the actors to audience in the small London attic-theatre. It was perhaps under this close inspection that actors failings were harshly apparent, with… being the most persuasive charcter of a arrogant sexed up teenager. Yet as the play went on everyone seemed to ease into there characters and allowance perhaps should be made to the fact that it was the first of the week’s performances.

The play has some touching moments, particularly between mother and son and brother and sister, but curiously the most touching moment of the play’s production is when the bullied fat girl, hidden beneath a heap of bandages is left alone in the hospital bed. Director Ashley Alymann seems to give a particularly significance to this moment as the blue lighting is left to linger on her. I supposed that ‘that face’ which was hidden from view would be central to the play- but she is never seen again and her abuse at the hands of teenage bullies ignored. In fact I would welcome a sequel of a play that focuses primarily on her.


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