By Leo Butler
Directed by Sam Strong
With Sarah Sutherland & David Whiteley
Set: Dayna Morrissey
Lighting: Danny Pettingill
Sound: Rob Stewart
Stage Manager: Isobel Ferns
Faces in the Crowd (Oct 7 -Nov 7)
Kate Herbert, Herald Sun 03/10/09
With nearly half of marriages ending in divorce, Leo Butler’s Faces in the Crowd may hit a nerve in many people. This two-hander depicts an intense, uncomfortable insight into the weird reunion of a long-separated couple.
Dave (David Whiteley), after five years with Joanne (Sarah Sutherland), disappeared 10 years previously, leaving Joanne with huge debts and unanswered questions. Dave was never heard of again — until now.
The pain gets worse. Joanne, contacted by Dave, arrives at his fancy London flat. She is bitter, he is at first contrite. Whiteley and Sutherland capture the awful discomfort of these people who now have nothing in common. We wonder whether they ever did when Dave describes how he felt trapped and needed to escape. We also wonder why he invited her to his home and why she came.
They snipe and bicker, defend themselves and attack with cruel words and even physical violence. And why is Joanne, with what appears to be shame, peeling her clothes off? Why is Dave not commenting?
All becomes clear when we realise that she is taking her pound of flesh or, rather his seed. Joanne wants a baby — and Dave owes it to her.
The acting is skilful. Whiteley has an edge of violence balanced with smooth courtesy.
Sutherland, as Joanne, looks shattered. Her northern English accent gives her an alien quality.
Sam Strong’s production is claustrophobic, containing the actors in a set (by Dayna Morrissey) that barely gives them room to dodge each other’s blows.
This play will have you with clenched fists and holding your breath.
Faces in the Crowd (Oct 7 -Nov 7)
Cameron Woodhead, The Age 13/10/09
Nothing in the world can compensate one for not always being 25, Lord Byron wrote in his diaries. He died at 36, of course. Generation X doesn’t have that luxury. It has started hitting early middle age, and the romance is wearing off.
Leo Butler’s Faces in the Crowd is a brilliant and excruciating anti-romance – a Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? for those who misspent their youth in the ’80s, and are facing the credit crunch now.
An estranged couple, Dave (David Whiteley) and Joanna (Sarah Sutherland), are reunited in Dave’s trendy London apartment. It has been a decade since Dave fled northern England, his marriage and a mountain of debt, to start afresh in the south.
Joanna’s arrival is a day of reckoning. Still bitter about Dave’s abandonment, she no longer cares about the money. Now 40, Joanna wants Dave to impregnate her before it’s too late. She’s even brought Viagra, just in case.
Whiteley and Sutherland put in fantastic performances, verbally pummelling each other in perfectly observed Sheffield accents. It isn’t quite George and Martha all over again. As written, the play strays into caricature, making it less intensely dramatic and more overtly satirical than Albee’s masterpiece.
The scarifying emotional terrain is also leavened by incidental comedy. Sound and set design wryly capture the claustrophobia of high-density urban living.
Filing cabinets are substituted for furniture. Depeche Mode played full-bore upstairs, a neighbour’s bathroom renovations, and the traffic noise outside all form a comic soundtrack to the fumbling and mechanical attempts at sex onstage.
It’s a biting satire that will make you laugh and cringe.