Tweetingit: 4* A raw, emotional two-hander delivered with pace and conviction, honouring the finest traditions of northern drama
My first visit to the White Bear immediately ticked all the required boxes. A two-minute walk from the nearest tube; a nice selection of beers and a neat, well-contained theatre upstairs. Faces in the crowd is a typically gritty story of Joanne and Dave, a couple separated for 10 years who reunite in London to talk over old times. Dave has a flat in London and works in HR; while Joanne is still in Sheffield running a florist shop. Some tightly packed dialogue ensues as they taunt, cajole and tease each other into submission. They probe weak spots eager to provoke a reaction. You always feel that Joanne has the edge over Dave with almost forensic powers of recall which usually puts Dave on a losing horse. Whilst outwardly aggressive it’s clear they still want each other; but how exactly do they reconcile the blank years and the wreckage they’ve both caused?
It comes as no surprise that the play premiered at the Royal Court in 2008. The play’s no-nonsense northern candour fits that venue’s ethos so well. This production is pretty much spot on, as Bonnie Adair and Adam Bone project great chemistry in the lead roles. The set is compact imitating the dimensions of a typical studio flat in London. The mid-noughties references are surprisingly memorable as Joanne flicks through copies of Loaded and Marie Claire…Lucy Pinder, Abi Titmuss and Sarah Harding (how transient celebrity is!?).
Overall, the play is extremely well written and acted, for which I am always appreciative. I was also impressed with the manual dexterity of the actors, as they took it in turns to chop vegetables and prepare a meal while delivering some complex dialogue (speaking as a non-multi tasker!). However, the explicit dialogue surprised a few people in the audience. Likewise, occasional bouts of nudity weren’t always well received (i.e. Joanne was topless and Dave bottomless, quite logically for the more intimate scenes). An elderly gentleman sat next to me didn’t know where to look and might have been looking a refund. Quiet mumbling in a closely seated audience wasn’t difficult to pick up. But isn’t it a grown-up play for grown-up people? Yet again, the spectre of legendary drama series Play for Today springs to mind. It was heavily reminiscent and similarly provoked a reaction, perhaps this is truly the marque of a good play?
Author: Leo Butler
Director: Law Ballard
Producer: Upstanding Productions
Box Office: 0333 012 4963
Booking until: 31 March 2018
Reviewer: Brian Penn