Yes, the day it snowed I went a spied on an estranged husband and wife, literally peering in over their dado rail. I’m of course jabbering about Leo Butler’s “Faces In The Crowd”. The set up of the stage in the Jerwood Space Upstairs is fantastic. We, the audience hover over the ceiling and peer into Dave’s plush looking flat complete with working plasma TV and food to create recipes that the Guardian have spouted. The brilliance about the set is everyone is watching what could happen next. There’s no fannying about sight lines and making sure the audience can see everything; we can see everything and we’re trying to crane our neck to see more.
The dialogue and action is brutally honest and stripped bare. We see Joanne light up cigarette after cigarette trying to hide her anxiety of meeting up again whilst we see Dave in the bathroom masturbating with no success. Joanne’s reeling from Dave walking out on her years previously and demands a baby from him. The toughness of Joanne wanting to get everything right is painful to watch. You see a man so sure of himself and happy to see his wife but still wants to gloss over the grief and debts laid onto her. It’s tense from the word go and what’s more is that you don’t really know who they are until quite a way in. At times fraught with anger and others simple with silent delicacy it reminds you of how perplex relationships can be. We see them fight, remember and pick away at what the other one is doing and it’s equally grotesque and riveting.
The actors are superb in this two hander, they need to be to hold the sustained bubbling tension. There’s humour littered around and within the dialogue and at times it seems like an age where the stage is silence heavy but it adds more to the natural events unfolding in front of your eyes. You see their individual reactions behind closed doors and the facade they have for each other. Dave cries in the bathroom sobbing into a white towel he’s using to stem his bleeding wound whilst Joanne lazes in the bedroom before coming into the kitchen to carry on cooking their dinner. This set has it all with running water, flushing toilet and the neighbour drilling upstairs. I’m inclined to say it starts slow but really the tension is present from their entrance, it’s just getting used to the set up of the stage, but after that small hurdle I adored it. My personal highlight has to be the reticent Dave and his reluctance to spiral out of control but being in Joanne’s over-bearing company he can only hold his tongue for so long.
Dave’s breakdown is ferocious and manic throwing words like scolding knives and is so physically present everywhere on the stage it’s uncomfortable to stalk him around the stage. My only grudge is that Butler gives this amazing and powerful splurge of anger and discontent to Dave but then follows it up with Joanne having her big lengthy speech. Not only did hers seems so weak and have her quoting fragments of speech that I hadn’t associated with her before, but it ultimately detracted away from the mental and physical break of Dave. Overall I found it energetic to watch and fascinating from the start. The idea that money can be everything and nothing at the same time appeals to me and Butler captures the public fascination in one small flat with lots of noses pressed at the metaphorical window.