TAT Deputy Sydney Theatre Editor Fiona Hart reviews Face to Face.
What do you get when you combine one of Australia’s best known playwrights with the Artistic Director of the Ensemble Theatre, and throw in an actor who was so famous in Neighbours that this reviewer recognised him over twenty years later? The promise of a great show.
Face to Face, playing at the Chatswood Concourse this September, runs for ninety minutes with no interval – and as the script spans one continuous, real-time act it is clear that the format suits the play perfectly. So too does the auditorium, with the beautifully wide stage used perfectly by Sandra Bates to allow the characters to be, quite literally, face to face with each other as well as the audience.
My Neighbours friend plays a relatively minor role, and so I watch with interest as the cast around him slowly reveal themselves at the instigation of our protagonist, Jack Manning (effortlessly embodied by Glenn Hazeldine). The sense of voyeurism is delightful: without giving too much away about the setting, in real life we are taught to do anything but stare at other people in such a situation, but right from the quietly stylish opening our curiosity is deliberately piqued, inviting us to confront the characters from the comfort of the fourth wall as they confront each other from the coolness of their clinical plastic chairs.
The intense preparation that has clearly gone into developing each of the individual characters is enough to conceal a few minor scripting anomalies – the odd phrase is repeated unnecessarily, and Jack contradicts himself at least once when he tells one Glenn it is unreasonable of him to expect an immediate answer from Greg, only moments later to demand that same answer from Greg himself. And the wrap-up is all rather neat; that said, despite the fact that the narrative touches on some dark themes it is such a light-hearted piece that we audience members would feel cheated if Williamson were to leave too many loose ends.
A colleague who has never been to the theatre asked me the other day for a recommended entry show, and I told him that this would be the perfect play for his first foray. Amusing, accessible and perfectly packaged into a nicely paced hour and a half, so long as you are happy to have your interval ice cream either before or after the action instead (wonderfully the parlour across the road is still open when the show ends), Face to Face is a treat of an evening’s theatre. Oh, and did I mention there is a guy from Neighbours in it?
Face to Face is playing at the Chatswood Concourse until 27 September.
More informatin visit ensembletheatre.com.au