Pros: The terrifically entertaining and comic theatrical treats served up.
Cons: Some snippets were better than others – but all were good!
The White Bear Theatre in Kennington is always a great place for a pint and a play. Face to Face Festival 2015 is taking place here for an extended two weeks, showcasing solo performances of both established and emerging artists. When I attended, I was treated to a selection of extracts from eight different plays by six performers. While it must have been a feat to break short performances down to 10 minute extracts, I felt that I got a good sense of the direction and ideas behind the plays and wanted to know more, which seems like the perfect combination.
Director Colin Watkeys introduced the performers, starting off with Claire Dowie. For me, she stole the show with three hilarious but thoughtful performances, all featuring mischievous and charming gender-bending characters ranging from a transsexual and a teenage tomboy to a doomed Primark shopper. She demonstrated how one person on a stage with no props (except a lonely chair) can be completely riveting. The first extract, H to He (I’m turning into a man), was a mix of stand-up comedy and cabaret, and explored gender and sexuality in a delightfully absorbing format. Why Is John Lennon Wearing a Skirt? convincingly looked at the at times agonising and frustrating process of becoming a woman (I certainly sympathised!), and See Primark and Die! was yet another comic masterpiece.
Next up, Sian Webber performed Martha Gellhorn: Troubles Seen – a moving if slightly confusing account through the eyes of Martha Gellhorn, a leading war correspondent of the early 20th century who also happened to be Ernest Hemingway’s third wife. The performance of Lola in London by Marta Pequeña was a hypnotic look at a Spanish woman’s relationship with her matador boyfriend. Comic, at times darkly so, this piece showcased Pequeña’s talent and led the audience into a world of passion and violence which ended with a forcefully hard-hitting revelation.
Meanwhile, Jack Klaff’s Under a Foreign Sky told the story of a man in self-imposed exile from his home country South Africa by recounting extracts of forty years of letters written between himself and his mother back in Cape Town. The performance was moving and thoughtful, and cleverly explored the joys and frustrations of the long-lost art of communicating by snail mail.
Martin Stewart delved into the nature of human weirdness with an entertaining adaptation of Ken Campbell’s Recollections of a Furtive Nudist, and Marysia Trembecka treated us to snippets of pop songs and their analysis in The Singing Psychic. The evening was notable for the sheer breadth of subjects explored, and the tremendously engaging, comic and playful extracts – a real theatrical feast which whet my appetite for more. If you’re keen to stock up on laughs and your knowledge of established and emerging solo performers, head to Kennington now.
Festival Director: Colin Watkeys
Box Office: 020 7793 9193
Booking Link: http://whitebeartheatre.co.uk/
Playing Until: 12 July