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Faces in the Crowd review at White Bear Theatre, London – ‘a smart revival’

Bonnie Adair in Faces in the Crowd at White Bear Theatre, London Bonnie Adair in Faces in the Crowd at White Bear Theatre, London
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When Leo Butler’s Faces In The Crowd premiered at the Royal Court in 2008, it was one of the first plays to deal with the broader effects of the credit crunch in modern drama.

Today it may have less of an impact but it remains a tight, visceral piece of writing, that’s both achingly cruel and overwhelmingly bleak. Butler’s writing scratches viciously at the old wounds of a broken marriage and shattered dreams.

The play depicts a couple’s awkward meeting 10 years after he walked out of their marriage in search of a better life. A tone of resentment ricochets through the dialogue, made all the more surreal when the reason for this uneasy reunion unfolds.

Between them Bonnie Adair as Joanne and Adam Bone as Dave work hard to create a sense of character history that ventures way beyond the play. The awkwardness of the encounter is fuelled by a shared sense of guilt at abandoned debts and aborted children. Adair gives a brutal performance as Joanne, but her constant needling of her estranged husband is laced with vulnerability too.

The emotional honesty of the performances is paramount and the production takes a while to find its pace. When it gets up to speed however even the delight’s of Michael Leopold’s minimalist bachelor pad design barely offer distraction from the pain. Law Ballard’s direction focuses on the couple’s tragedy while allowing brief moments of humour to – occasionally – lighten the tone.

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Verdict
Smart, if occasionally hesitant, production of Leo Butler’s brutal play
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