Façade

Sun 9th – Sun 23rd August 2015

reviews

Abigail Smith

at 09:33 on 12th Aug 2015

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“Were you watching carefully?” If not, you may have missed the complex plot-line which formed the psychological thriller Façade. We watch various people from Alec’s life, desperately piecing together the things they know about him, trying to find an answer before it’s too late.

The show’s premise was a fascinating one. A small video camera relayed the characters on a black and white TV, as if they were making police statements, each being interviewed about the tragically young death of their friend. As the show went on, we were given cryptic clues as to what had actually happened to the protagonist. The leading hints that Alec was dead, that he was alive, that he sensed the presence of “them” was highly disconcerting, and the concept of working backwards, like the audience were unravelling a tapestry, was highly effective. It was a genuinely intriguing show, and the inclusion of philosophy (which could have felt inaccessible) was well managed. The writers should be commended for coming up with such a complex and tightly woven storyline.

It was a shame then that they allowed the show to come to such an unsatisfactory conclusion. The time limit, which had made the show so pressing and energised, was never explained, and in truth the resolution felt like a bit of a cop out. It was always going to be difficult to tie up such a detailed plot, but it was clear that the show’s conclusion was a rushed one; they seemed to choose the easy route, rather than coming up with a conclusion worthy of the show’s intelligence.

The character of Alec was played particularly well, in a subtle and mature performance. His anger, love, and regret never felt overplayed, but were kept carefully in check. As his opening voice-over told us, he was not a monster, but the emotions bubbling below the surface seemed as if they could spill over at any moment. His relationship with his psychiatrist was particularly fascinating to watch, and both actors gave brilliant performances. However it was difficult to engage with the character of Jessie, who was not portrayed very convincingly, and who smiled no matter how twisted the situation became.

The show was naturalistic in style, which made the moments of terror even more shocking. The use of lighting and masks was timed with excellent judgement, and both the director and the tech team did a fantastic job of making me jump out of my seat in fright. It was a show that was disconcerting throughout, winding and dark, with hints at a past drowning jumbled with the reality of unreality, the show left me questioning hours after it had finished. It was engaging and fascinating; if you want intense drama, look no further than this highly polished production.

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Izzie Fernandes

at 10:32 on 12th Aug 2015

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A high level of intensity was largely sustained throughout this performance. Philosophical considerations, applying freewill and determinism to real life, and consideration as to what evil means and what reality even is had me second guessing my own judgment throughout. If it were a film this would have been a thriller. Façade began with gusto, flourished nicely, peaked and, despite becoming dishearteningly disjointed towards the end, maintained an absorbing balance of unbearable anticipation, light hearted-quoting of Russell Brand, and philosophical contemplation.

The intelligent use of the stage, which was theoretically divided into three, was reflective of the array of personalities and emotions which came into play. This piece felt well-formed and deliberate which in the face of such complex content made for a stimulating show. The ominous foreboding was almost tangible. A web-cam and outward facing screen and n amassment of scattered diary entries were proof of how precisely the fractured reality which the plot demonstrated was formulated and conveyed. Effective use of lighting, startlingly placed sound effects and the frankly terrifyingly deployment of white masks (the use of which was maybe slightly exhausted by the end) – all fed into the unforeseen twist and gruesome revelation of a secret buried in the past.

The strong, philosophically researched script drew me into the “itty bitty niggling questions” addressed. All the same, the pacey delivery and succession of revelations never strayed far from this ever-intensifying plot. Questions of existence, evil and choice were handled particularly well by the lead, Alec. A strong and contemplative performance was also given by a bemused and guilt ridden professor but this level of gravitas would have perhaps also have been enjoyable to see from Jessica, the supposedly absorbing love interest of the tortured protagonist.

Whilst the philosophical semantics could have seemed inaccessible, it was refreshing to see a cast embrace complex ideas and difficult content in an intense yet un-melodramatic manner. A confused presentation of time frames was an unfortunate hindrance to the cleverly written resolution and, although this lack of direction did not hinder the play as a whole, these final discrepancies did marginally weaken the intimately built tension. Saying this, with strong characterization and a thought-provoking set, the production provided a raw insight into consuming resentment. A strong story and the breakdown between reality and delusion materialized into an animating show which handled the ambitious content brilliantly.

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