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Faceless review at Park Theatre, London – ‘lacks theatricality’

Based on true accounts of young women running away to join IS, Chicago-based playwright Selina Fillinger’s debut play Faceless (which she wrote as an undergraduate) is puzzling.

There is undoubtedly a gripping piece of theatre to be made about this subject but the over-reliance on courtroom rhetoric along with Prav MJ’s somewhat stop-start direction adds up to a piece that is more distancing than involving.

Revolving around the trial of ‘Wonderbread white’ 18-year-old Susie Glenn (Fiona Gent) and her attempt to become an IS bride (converting to Islam on Twitter using #ISIS), young lawyer Claire (a compelling performance by Paige Round), a Harvard graduate, is selected by the prosecution as the embodiment of the rational voice of an American Muslim woman.

Susie herself remains an elusive figure. Whilst her defence lawyer puts forward the perfect sob story of a lonely child traumatised by the recent violent death of her police officer mother, it would have been illuminating to have learned more about her growing fanaticism and her awareness of special treatment as a white woman in her own words.

Matt Mella’s obnoxiously preppy hotshot prosecutor Scott Bader is clearly supposed to be the embodiment of white male entitlement (naturally, he plans to go into politics), but he also jarringly serves as comic relief.

The stock images of offices and a prison meeting room projected on the wall are appropriately harsh, if crudely generated. The characters remain detached from each other throughout and a stronger emphasis on the connection between the two women might have made for more emotional involvement.

Verdict
An important topic and intriguing premise undermined by a production lacking in theatricality

Production

Production
Faceless
Venue
Park Theatre
City
London
Starts
April 17, 2018
Ends
May 12, 2018
Press night
April 19, 2018
Authors
Selina Fillinger
Director
Prav MJ
Set
Prav MJ
Lighting
Gareth Prentice
Sound
Joe Dines
Stage manager
Kearan Enticknap
Cast includes
Fiona Gent, Fearon McElroy, Matt Mella, Paige Round, Sam Thorpe-Spinks
Producer
PMJ Productions in association with Park Theatre
Running time
1hr 30mins