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Stone Face review at the Finborough Theatre, London – ‘physicality, depth and nuance’

Liz Jadav and Ellie Turner in Stone Face at the Finborough Theatre. Photo: Lauren Bevan
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What would a blade of grass feel like to someone who has never felt it before? This is a small thought at the heart of Eve Leigh’s Stone Face, which asks some big questions of modern Britain. Catherine, aged 15, is found in a one-bedroom flat in London after the death of her mother. She has never been outside, nor experienced any real human interaction. She cannot walk, and cannot speak.

The duty of trying to develop Catherine as a person now falls to her half-sister (and only relative) Ali, her doctor, and the tabloid journalist whose newspaper’s fundraising is financing her private care.

Ellie Taylor’s performance as both Catherine, and 19-year old Ali, is one of extraordinary physicality, depth and nuance. There are flickers of intense agony and moments of real humour. Turner has strong support in Liz Jadav, as both the self-serving journalist and as Catherine’s doctor.

Loren Elstein’s modular set provides the blocks on which Catherine’s start in the world is built up and knocked down in equal measure. There are no real revelations, but the power of Leigh’s story lies in its unflinching approach and the trust it places in its performers. In there, too, is an all too biting reminder of the pressures faced by state-funded healthcare, of which Ali becomes distrusting, knowing it cannot commit the kind of resources Catherine needs.

Roy Alexander Weise’s production is a probing and thoughtful one that resists using shock mechanisms, but shocks all the same. Weise is the newly crowned winner of the JMK Young Director Award. If Stone Face is anything to go by, he is a deserving one.

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Impressive two-hander that asks probing questions about modern Britain