Directed by Peter Green
The Old 505 Theatre
505/342 Elizabeth Street, Surry Hills
Season: 22 – 26 September
Living on the cusp of normalcy, sobriety and lawfulness is a precarious place, requiring only the slightest imbalance to tip you over the edge. Stephen House’s play explores the fringe of Dublin society in an intimate encounter with the whores, the dealers and those caught up in the chaos.
It seems futile for me to recount the storyline, for House’s storytelling could never be done justice by a scant summary. Though, it should be said that by nature of the people featured in the work, references to drug use and sex is integral to the plot. The work does not shy away from reality, preferring to engage directly with a grittier social milieu. In this sense, the audience is able to come almost face to face with matters with which they may not otherwise have any association.
With the play being written and performed by Stephen House, there was a sense of questioning amongst the audience of the distinction between fiction and an extent of personal experience in the writing. This can only be attributed to the immense vulnerability in House’s performance - regardless of the degree of autobiographical material, it felt truthful. This was further aided by the intimacy of the work, as House would form momentary eye contact with each member of the audience, powerfully affecting each one. A lilting poeticism permeates the work, as the language employed in House’s writing is performed with such familiarity that you almost get lost in its delicate beauty. Staged in The Old 505 Theatre, the audience is met with an empty stage, ordained only with a single chair. This minimalism in design sets the tone for House’s performance approach. There is an understated potency to House’s stage presence, whereby the slightest movement or utterance is spawned from a voltaic source within. Without hesitation, House constantly propelled the work forward with a deep understanding of his character, resulting in highly believable work. There was no self-consciousness in his acting, he possessed a confidence in the story he was telling and allowed himself to be a vessel for this story, rather than an overbearing performer of a plot. In doing so, the work generated laughter on occasion, in accordance with the humour inherent in life.
Through drug smuggling over international borders, a transformative relationship with an overweight sex worker, attendance and consumption at a raging ice party, and a myriad of events in between, you are left with the protagonist’s overwhelming desire to create a greater life for himself. The people tying him down to a life of addiction continue to reel him back to his habitual behaviour, inflicting nauseating despair. One must consider this grim, yet sound, picture of addiction as a life on the streets translates into the flagrant indulgence in sex, drugs and alcohol until one is numbed from the actuality of life. It is this numbness in its ebbs and flows that renders one unable to engage fully in their surroundings, never in direct interactions, but rather Almost Face to Face.