Almost Face to Face

A dramatic monologue told through the voice of a man struggling with his hedonistic tendencies.
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A dramatic monologue told through the voice of a man struggling with his hedonistic tendencies, Stephen House’s Almost Face to Face is also a play about the psychology of geography, how spaces filled with meaning and memories control and influence us, and how escape from any space is always a choice but not always an option. 

At times pithy and aggressive, at others brimming with a dark humour, the skill of this AWGIE Award winning writer and actor is reflected in a script relishing in the fragility of humanity and the storytelling tradition of Ireland. Set in Dublin, Almost Face to Face is the tale of a writer returning in an attempt to kick the grog after an excessive spree in Paris. Part flaneur, part active participant, House acts as both subject and observer of Dublin’s underclass. He shares a small flat with a very large woman and loiters on the wharf, easily seen from the apartment window, with the local alcoholics, drug addicts, sex workers and battered youth. He watches them, at times pities them, but ultimately knows he’s one of them. Your own history is difficult to escape. 

Intimately acquainted with the characters in his story, House is immediately at home in the spartan performance space of the Old 505 Theatre. Imitations of lilting Irish accents quickly morph into the angry snarl of a man pushed into a corner as House performs his own script with a deft change in register. A chair, a man, a grubby white wall – there’s little to distract your attention, making you all the more grateful for House’s polished and well-paced performance. 

House is loath to reveal just how autobiographical Almost Face to Face is, but in this tight and unrefined space, his face almost face to face with ours, it’s hard to shake the feeling of piqued curiosity and hand-wringing discomfort endured when sprung upon by a bar raconteur. His characters show us what it is to be incapable. Incapable of moving away from that which is crushing us, of being more like the people we think we ought to be, of giving to people in the way we know they deserve to be given to. The theme of being trapped, by addictions, rooms, traumas or people, is the thread upon which the hour-long production is hinged. House’s characters all long for human interactions but dance around them fearing that moment of collision – the moment where they have to decide to give something of themselves to someone they’re not sure they have the capacity to give; the moment they have to acknowledge what it is they really are. 

Complete darkness, a boozy pub rock anthem, an Irish ditty – intermittent music and lighting changes do well to give the play some much-needed moments of parenthesis. You can breathe out and digest the incestuous network of characters featured in the story. At times House’s performance tilts into the histrionic, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing; the Irish yarn isn’t without its melodramatics and House does well to conjure sentimentality without collapsing into ridiculousness. It’s bracing and earnest theatre, but it also manages to reveal the humorous, uncanny and beautiful in the murky terrain of a life on the edges. Almost Face to Face is playing at the Old 505 Theatre as a part of the Sydney Fringe Festival. The space, dedicated to the performance or Australia’s new theatre work, is the ideal setting for audiences to see this latest piece by one of the country’s foremost emerging storytellers.  

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars 

Almost Face to Face  

By Stephen House

Sydney Fringe Festival 
Old 505 Theatre, Surry Hills 
Thursday 24 September 2015 to Saturday 26 September 2015

Sophie Gillfeather-Spetere
About the Author
Sophie occasionally writes. She is particularly interested in art and heritage.