On the Rocks preview: That Face

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With On the Rocks just around the corner, we’ve been hearing from the festival’s organisers to get the lowdown on some of the many arts-related highlights that we can look forward to over the next couple of weeks. Here, we take a closer look at Polly Stenham’s That Face, a contemporary, challenging play that aims to push the boundaries of theatre. Having received critical acclaim in both the West End and Broadway, we caught up with the production team that are giving the show a St Andrews spin.

1. What has That Face got in store? Tell us a little bit about the piece.

That Face, in a nutshell, is a contemporary play essentially about the brutalities of a middle class family falling apart as a result of mental illness. However, that makes it sound far bleaker than it actually is; there are certainly more comedic moments, but the play explores the fall apart of a family when those at the centre of the family are forced to confront the choices they are making.

2. What was your inspiration behind choosing and producing this play?

Polly Stenham has been a playwright who has interested me for a number of years: she was nineteen when she wrote this, her debut play (making her the youngest person to debut in the West End since the 1800s, and putting us all to shame!), which instantly made me interested in exploring her work. I acted in her second play, Tusk Tusk, at school and I saw her third play, No Quarter, a couple of years ago, and the themes of her work are not only interesting but very important. Stenham focusses on marginalised voices – those that are rarely heard – in her plays, and I hope that bringing the play to St Andrews will allow people to talk about the issues and themes of That Face.

3. Were there any challenges in bringing the play to life?

As with any project, there have been challenges; we have slightly reworked the play to be set in Edinburgh rather than London, but the biggest challenge has been transforming the Barron into a squalid bedroom – I have been collecting empty cigarette packets off the pavements of St Andrews for a number of weeks now, which perhaps has been more odd than challenging.

4. What do you hope an audience takes away from the performance?

The play shouldn’t be seen in a wholly moralistic light. There isn’t an obvious message that should be taken from the play, rather the play allows an audience to see a side of middle class life, one under the affliction of mental illness, that isn’t necessarily aired in public often enough. Ideally, I would also like the audiences to be entertained by the piece – it is interesting, very well written with and has an excellent cast!

That Face will take place in the Barron Theatre at 2.30pm and 8pm on Wednesday 9 April. Tickets are £5.

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