Orange Tree Theatre, Richmond – until 7th October 2023
Reviewed by Bobbi Fenton
That Face, written by Polly Stenham, explores the effects of parental neglect, addiction, and mental health issues on the family. The play opens with Mia (Ruby Stokes) and Izzy (Sarita Gabony) performing some sort of ‘initiation’ on younger girl, Alice (Holly French) at their school, which lands Alice in hospital, and Mia in a whole heap of trouble. We are then introduced to Martha (Niamh Cusak) and her 18-year-old son, Henry (Kasper Hilton-Hille). Within the first two or three scenes you can really gage the family dynamic, with the codependent and borderline incestuous relationship between Henry and Martha, and Martha’s hatred of her own teenage daughter.
Throughout the course of the play, we watch as Henry tries, in vain, to help Martha, to try to prove that the last five years of living with her have not been for nothing, and to prevent his father, Hugh (Dominic Mafham) from having Martha sectioned when he arrives from Hong Kong. This all leads to the seemingly inevitable conclusion of Henry showing just how much his life and mental wellbeing have been impacted by Martha.
One of my favourite parts of this play was the decision to have the set only use a bed, with any props underneath it, which during transitions between scenes is rotated in a circle. I interpreted this as a representation of the inescapable cycle that all the main characters are trapped in because of Martha.
I believe that this play has been perfectly cast, as I cannot think of a single actor or actress that would have been better, in any of the roles, than the actual cast. It is a definite must see, as it explores such disturbing themes in such a gripping and captivating way.