Faceless at Park Theatre
For every court case the public needs a face, one with distinct personal features we can recognise and point the finger at. In the proceedings examined in Faceless at the Park Theatre, the faces in the firing line seem to be the wrong ones. Inspired by real events, Selina Fillinger writes an intense play on racism, faith and family, exploiting the dramatic appeal of the raging American tribunal and adding a pinch of humour.
Blind to the news and the climate of fear surrounding terrorism, Susie (Fiona Gent) first sympathises with an Isis fighter, then herself converts to Islam, arranging to travel to Turkey – with Syria as her final destination. Tracked down and arrested, the 18-year-old must face trial. In the role of prosecutor and representing the US government is Claire Fathi (Paige Round), a practising Muslim initially pushed to take up the case to show to the world what a misleading and unjust misinterpretation the white woman has made of her religion. Distressing thoughts about the idea of mercy and fatherhood start to creep in.
Taking on the fascinating friction of the fierce American court, the play gradually builds in tension, becoming increasingly fraught the more it gets into the questioning of those called to testify and the addresses to the jury. The script brilliantly develops the multiple emotional and psychological layers involved. The themes treated go from online radicalisation to racial abuse, from the meaning of American freedoms to broken familial relationships. Both the indicted and the prosecutor wear a hijab; is there really an enemy to be found under those veils?
There are soft moments reflecting on the irrationality of love, both within the family and in interactions with caring strangers on social media. Overall, the production offers plenty of food for thought, especially on the thin border between ignorance and heartfelt support.
The scenes cut and change swiftly, sustainably mixing the actions in the office with the conversations in prison and the statements in the court itself. Although the setting is simply made of indicative images projected onto the backdrop – leaving the stage free for movement and giving the audience the power to use their own imagination – the light design could have played a more interesting role.
Matt Mella and Sam Thorpe-Spinks buoyantly wear the tight suits of the lawyers, and Round is fiery and arresting for the whole performance. Injecting very few moments of weakness into an otherwise very strong and aggressive character, she keeps the bar high on the empathy, brilliantly avoiding the potential over-dramatisation of her role.
Photo: Pete Le May
Faceless is at from 17th April until 12th May 2018. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.