Review Round-up: Stenham Saves West End Face
That Face was written by Stenham as part of the Royal Court’s Young Writers Programme which she attended in 2005 when she was just 19 years old. Now 21, Stenham is working on the script for a screen transfer of the play which won the Evening Standard and Critics’ Circle Awards for Most Promising Playwright and the TMA Award for Best Play.
Jeremy Herrin directs this portrait of an affluent family in freefall which is billed as a “comic exploration of children who become parents to their parents”. The drugged and boozed-up Martha (Duncan) is fixated on her teenage son and oblivious to the boarding school terror tactics exerted by her teenage daughter, Mia. Duncan last appeared in the West End six years ago in 2001, in Private Lives and Kevin Elyot’s Mouth to Mouth, which also transferred from the Royal Court Upstairs. Lighting is by Natasha Chivers and design from Mike Britton.
Stenham’s talent was commended all over again following the West End opening. Critics were unanimous in their agreement that That Face is “clearly the work of a fine new talent” with a confident grasp of her subject matter and “an ability to communicate pain and longing” that belies her age. Lindsay Duncan and Matt Smith were also praised for their “brilliance”, creating a winning combination of “vigour in the writing” and “passion in the playing”. Jeremy Herrin's direction received more varied remarks, with some appreciating his “admirably Spartan production” while others felt that at times he had allowed the play to feel “underpowered” in its new home.
- by Melissa Rynn & Kate Jackson