That Face

David Ward 30 October 2009

David Ward decides whether it is handsome or pretty

Corpus Playroom Mainshow – 7.30pm Tues 27th-Sat 31st October


It is a difficult and slightly daunting task to mount the first amateur production of a play. With only the professionals to use as a reference point – not only with regards to professional actors, but also production values, theatres, etc – taking material from that arena into the amateur one relies on having both strong material and a confident and assured director. This production of That Face – the amateur premiere of Polly Stenham’s 2007 play – has both in abundance.

It was a production that only got stronger as it went along. Aside from the slightly lax opening scene, characters and relationships were cemented, with Eve Hedderwick Turner presenting the audience with an especially sympathetic and well balanced interpretation. She was perhaps the actor who got to grips best with her character’s age – she played her fifteen year old character Mia with an effective hormonal melting pot of dependence, verve, anger, and despondency.

I felt that Nick Ricketts as Mia’s brother, Henry, only truly connected with the role in the closing scene, and Jessica Lambert as the mother, Martha, almost captured the nuances of the mentally damaged woman. She, like Ricketts, finally came into her own in the play’s climactic final scene.

I say that the production get better as it progressed, largely because this final cathartic scene was so brilliantly effective. It was a prolonged moment in which the performances and direction were geared towards the goals of the writing – to display a traumatic family situation in which there are no heroes, and no villains, but where everyone is culpable and confused.

A lot of student productions struggle when it comes to those ‘big’ emotional moments, yet this was the antithesis to that. Once the audience were ready to be hit by the full force of the conclusion, they were not disappointed. It made one realise, unfortunately, how the rest of the production was good, but not up to the standard of this climax.

Director Seymour has taken some strong, modern material, and enthused it with a good degree of power and vitality. It never fails to capture the attention of the audience, and the performances are uniformly strong.

As it stands, it is a fine amateur debut for Polly Stenham’s play, and the production will undoubtedly be proved to be one of the highlights of this Michaelmas term.

David Ward