That Face

“You wish you had a cushion to hide behind.” It’s a sign of its prowess that this show is difficult to enjoy, writes FRANCESCA HILL.

Francesca Hill Genevieve Gaunt lara ferris maria pawklikowska that face

20th – 24th November, 7pm, Corpus Playroom, £6/5

Director: Maria Pawlikowska

Soul-destroyingly depressing. So awkward you wish you had a cushion to hide behind. Amazingly well acted. All valid reactions to a play which was Grim with a capital G.

The synopsis called it a “tragedy of middle-class existence” detailing “an endless struggle in an absurd world”. And oh boy were they right. That Face left me shell-shocked and really glad my mother isn’t an alcoholic.

If I’m honest, no I didn’t enjoy the play. I’m struggling to think of a situation in which crystallised human misery would be how I wanted to fill my evening. But whatever my thoughts on the play, I can’t fault the production itself.

Genevieve Gaunt as Martha is about as creepy and fucked up as it is possible to convincingly be. I couldn’t look away. Her Oedipal relationship with son Henry (played by James Bloor) took a while to become convincing, but by the end distressed me so much I wished it was less so. Initially wooden, Bloor really hits his stride halfway through, and some of his most angst-ridden later scenes were simply great.

Lara Ferris as Mia also put in a solid performance. Less shouting and crying, but no less emotional impact – overlooked and cast to one side throughout the play, Ferris’ portrayal of teenage loneliness and naivety strikes a chord.

It wasn’t depressing the entire way through; early scenes were actually funny in a black kind of way. A teenage girl standing over an unconscious body tied to a chair and wailing “I’m not going to be a prefect any more… this’ll fuck up my UCAS” made me chuckle, if only because I fear I would have reacted in the same way. Likewise, little touches such as some beautifully timed eye-rolling from Henry and Mia’s father (Quentin Beroud) neatly undercut some more melodramatic moments near the play’s climax. However, at the end of the day, anguish is what the play is all about.

Go if you’re in the mood for something dark, or want to see beautiful depictions of mental illness and the various effects that has on those closest to the person suffering from the condition. Otherwise don’t.