Before the play even began, I was beside myself - simply because of the all-star ensemble behind this production. Primarily written and directed by Simon Stone, resident director of the Belvoir, Face to Face is STC’s stage adaptation of Ingmar Bergman's 1976 film of the same title. The story develops around Jenny (played by Kerry Fox) a middle-aged psychiatrist, and cleverly displays the fine line between coping with the everyday, and teetering on the edge of madness.
The play explores degrees of depression and trauma in a way that is deeply human with dashes of dark comedy throughout. A million of the-best-people-ever have said, ‘If you want to tell people the truth, make them laugh or they’ll kill you.’ The first half of Face to Face displays this mantra cleverly, as the 'hypocrisy' of psychiatry is thrown around by almost every character. As an audience, your guard is let down a bit by this, thinking 'oh thank god it won't all be too heavy', and then the play takes a sharp turn to the darker side of life. The change in pace and style from the first half to the second was unexpected and concerning, but was ultimately saved by the glass-house starkly lit hospital room Jenny is confined to, a bold Brechtian statement separating Jenny from her audience (and reality dadidadida) only to communicate through the microphones within the glass room.
Without a doubt, the overall design and technicalities (done by Nick Schlieper) of Face to Face contribute enormously to it’s success. I’ve seen quite a bit of Schlieper's design before, but this time it was other-worldly. At almost every set change during Face to Face I was doing mental high-fives and fist pumps to his genius. It almost felt like a spectator sport, and the adrenaline rush that comes with every scored goal. (A connection most likely made due to the Olympics). It was just mind-numbingly AWESOME. From rolling an over-sized wooden spa onto the stage, to the descending roof; the set had an appropriate IKEA meets a Christopher Nolan film feel, that worked just wonderfully.
In the performance program for Face To Face they stated that although Ingmar Bergman was in many ways, a writer for the stage, this production was to be quite separate from the film and a work in itself. I can confirm that this was definitely achieved. Admittedly, Jenny's psychological discoveries and voicemail suicide note, are proven little toughies. However, to anyone aspiring towards design, when you watch Face to Face, I can promise that you'll understand how Charlie felt at the chocolate factory.