The war at home

that faceBack in 2007, Polly Stenham caused a furore with her debut play That Face. Not only did it mark a change of direction for the Royal Court by turning an unflinching gaze upon the upper-middle-class world familiar to many of its audience members – and exposing churning domestic relations, addiction, fractured psyches and mental health problems beneath the veneer of respectability that comes with wealth and status – but Stenham wrote the piece when she was only 19.

The Landor Theatre’s revival doesn’t benefit from the same shock factor, nor the star casting (Lindsay Duncan and Doctor Who-to-be Matt Smith were on blistering form in the original production), which means some flaws are more visible, but this is still a gripping, fast-paced 90-minute piece with a brilliant undertone of acerbic humour. Stenham’s searing emotional frankness impresses, but so too does her dramatic skill. The combination produces a portrait of familial dysfunction that would have Freud rubbing his hands in glee.

Read my full Bargain Theatreland review here

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