The Horror Face
By Glyn Roberts
The pop-up theatre at MKA is tucked into office space above the Prahan but entering the set designed by David Samuel the audience is completely transported into a clinical world where emotions are a commodity as much as humanity. This is a reality where enclosed within plastic sheeting we accept humans are synthesised into being and are at the mercy and under the control of their creators. It is an extension sideways from our own reality to reflect back growing concerns about eugenics.
The structure of this work was appealing and deceptively simple. It was nominally divided into parts A, B and C but the themes and atmosphere were consistent and anchored by the repeated motif of the self-help seminar. Playwright Glyn Roberts’ intricate weaving demonstrates considerable skill and subtlety in his writing. Linking lions into the content was inspired and it gave a lovely absurdity to the play.
Working also to connect the stories were the actors who were double cast throughout The Horror Face. The ensemble was very strong and they were able to demonstrate their talents with a variety of characterisations in the work. Matt Young played Ivan with endearing simplicity; Annie Last unleashed her inner animal to great effect in contrast to her otherwise restrained performance; Brendan McCallum was both in control and broken by turns and Soren Jensen demonstrated incredible voice dexterity across his roles. It was also quite nice to have him playing characters murdered by the lion in part A and B and then in part C finally having the opportunity to became a lion himself. Andrew of course deserves a special mention as part of Jensens’s performance. Inspired and excellently executed performance.
Felix Ching Ching Ho as director demonstrated a deft hand at confronting the surreal. She delivered a wonderful staging of a play that one can imagine would be a challenge to perform. Despite the structure, the action did not feel disjointed and it flowed smoothly between the scenes. There was also great integration with other production elements of lighting and sound demonstrating a holistic approach to the direction.
The Horror Face was surprisingly amusing at points; poignant at others and ultimately a very political play. The sense of foreboding that haunted the work did not explode into a terrifying climax; but that is the very insidiousness of eugenics – it creeps into society and before you know it we are living in a whole new world of horror.