Friday, 21 May 2010

Polly Stenham's Plays

I first became aware of Polly Stenham when I read this Lynn Barber interview. I have been a fan of Lynn Barber's interviews for years but my love for her was fully cemented when she revealed her hatred of theatre.

As anyone who read this post will know, I fear live performances almost as much as I fear skinny jeans and have not really enjoyed any plays that I have seen. To be fair, I've seen less than ten and most of them were amateur productions. I don't like the thought of audience participation though, even when I've been assured that it will not happen.

And yet I ended up in the front row of a comedy gig recently and was speaking to the comic during the show (it was for work) and I didn't have a stroke or die of embarrassment. (Although all hearing was lost in my right ear for the duration. Probably something to do with the blood pounding in my head). So I may return to the theatre because I love the idea of, and the reading of plays.

So. The interview begins with Lynn Barber saying that if anyone could tempt her back to theatre, it would be Polly Stenham. So, That Face, and later Tusk Tusk, were purchased.

There are similar themes running through both plays; sibling love, unstable mother figures, absent fathers and children trying to negotiate the adult world with no support.

That Face starts with a ritual, Tusk Tusk starts with a scream but both end with a reality check for Stenham's characters that hurts your heart.

That Face revolves mainly around three characters. Martha is mother to Henry and Mia, but really, they are the adults. Henry has devoted his life to caring for his mother and, while Mia can see that Martha is falling into the abyss, her brother cannot bear to let go.

Tusk Tusk explores this theme of children being adults further by removing parents altogether. Eliot, Maggie and Finn, all under 16, are waiting for their mother who has disappeared from their new home. They watch their phones hopefully but one of them doesn't expect to see her ever again.

Both plays are very upsetting reads but apparently draw tremendous laughs from the crowd so seeing them live is obviously ideal. The writing is so good, however, that they are great as books in themselves; like novellas written in dramatic form.

That Face was a big hit, but I think that I was moved by Tusk Tusk even more. Apparently Polly Stenham is adapting That Face into a film so I will definitely be seeing that and, maybe one day, I shall experience both plays live. They seem worth it.

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