Quirky Bird Theatre presents Polly Stenham’s searing debut That Face. Originally produced at the Royal Court in 2007, it received outstanding reviews and was nominated for several awards. Polly Stenham received both the Charles Wintour Award 2007 and the Critics Circle award 2008 for most Promising Playwright.
Quirky Bird Theatre previously presented Stenham’s second play Tusk Tusk, which won seven awards at the All England Theatre Festival 2016. Awards included Best Young Actor, Best Director and Best Play. Their work has been described as ‘flawless, innovative and full of creativity’.
We sat down with the cast of That Face: Louise Thomas who plays Martha, Yazmin Priestner Burton who plays Alice, Jamie Carter who plays Henry along with director Anna Friend to find out more about the play, the characters and what drew the cast to the story.
Could you please tell us who Quirky Bird Theatre are and the work you make.
Anna: Quirky Bird Theatre are a local theatre company who specialise in the training of young actors, offering them professional stage and touring experience. We produce several performances each year with actors ranging from 10-21, our main company tours throughout the year to schools and theatres.
What is the story of That Face and where does the action take place?
Anna: That Face centres around a family in crisis, with the mother at the heart of the the dysfunction. Martha is an alcoholic and has an addiction to prescription drugs, drama and has an unnatural relationship with her son, Henry. The play follows the unraveling of the family over a two day period and presents to us the impact of addiction, dysfunction and neglect.
Who do you play in the show and what relation do you have to the other characters?
Louise: I play Martha, a dysfunctional mother with mental health and addiction issues. She is a complex character who can take you from frustration and anger to sympathy and tears and many other emotions! Martha is mother to Henry and Mia, but has a very different relationship with each of them.
Yazmin: I play Alice, an innocent 13 year old girl who is looking for anything but trouble. Alice gets caught up in a strange ritual at school performed by 2 older children – Izzy and Mia – and poor Alice has no choice other than to except the consequences that lie ahead……
Jamie: I’m privileged to be playing the complex part of Henry, the son within the family, from the start it is evident that Martha and him share an uncomfortable yet loved and cared filled relationship. Throughout the play he gets to reveal the strong sibling bonds, abandonment from his father and the colossal and very twisted relationship with his mother – whilst seeing a small glimpse of his deprived want to just be a ‘normal teenager’.
What first drew you to the piece?
Anna: As a director of young actors I am always looking for work that will stretch them, take them out of their comfort zone and allow them to reach new depth in performance. Polly Stenham’s work allows me to do this. This is phenomonel piece of writing. Stenham debuted this play at the Royal Court in 2007 at the age of just 19. The characters are well crafted, rounded, sharp and fascinating. I love the pace and flow of the piece and the way the audience is left with so many questions….
Louise: I found the play fascinating from the first read. It has so much depth, and even after many performances and becoming so familiar with the text, I am still finding new thoughts, nuances and strands.
Yazmin: At the extraordinary age of 19 this talented young writer produced an incredible book called That Face. But I only knew about her through being a part of the performance Tusk Tusk, directed by the quirky yet fabulous Anna Friend who encouraged me to audition for the roll of Finn (that I got). Anna is so amazing and after the debut of the exhilarating play I couldn’t resist the offer of playing Alice in Polly Stenham’s That Face.
Jamie: First of all I have been a fan of Stenhams writing for a while now from plays such as No Quarter to her very first published play – That Face. Her writing has a beautifully natural pace to it where you can constantly interpret certain pieces of dialogue in different ways. There was also Henry’s character in which his thoughts and feelings I had a real attachment too on a personal level.
What can audiences expect from the show?
Louise: A rollercoaster of emotion! I hope they will leave talking about it for days afterwards, and that it will help to highlight many issues in so many peoples lives today. To act as a conversation starter at least will be worthwhile.
Yazmin: They will endure a rollercoaster of emotions. The fear for Alice. The hatred for Izzy. The seriousness of Hugh. The sympathy for Henry. The loneliness of Mia. The absolute INSANITY of Martha. These emotions capture the realism of the play that delves into the serious matters of bullying, drugs and most importantly Mental Health. On lookers dive into this unstable family’s problems dreaming of a happy ending but everything is not as it seems…
Jamie: A heart felt, twisted yet caring play that really holds ‘the mirror up to nature’ in our modern day classes…
That Face will be at the Swindon Arts Centre from Fri 7 July to Sat 8 July.
For more information and to buy tickets please visit: http://bit.ly/ThatFaceSAC