FACE TO FACE
FACE TO FACE, Ensemble Theatre at The Concourse Chatswood, August 25 – September 27 2014. Photography by Clare Hawley: above – Kristian Schmid, Andrew Cutcliffe and Ally Fowler; right – Glenn Hazeldine and Andrew Cutcliffe.
David Williamson’s Face to Face might be unprepossessing in its presentation, but it is endlessly fascinating in its human details.
The first in Williamson’s Jack Manning Trilogy, the set is spare almost to the point of wondering if director Sandra Bates has done anything at all. There’s a semi-circle of red chairs, a table with the usual filtered water and plastic cups and that’s about it.
It could be any old community centre or school assembly hall, but as facilitator Jack Manning (Glenn Hazeldine) takes his seat, we realise we’re at a community conference for a workplace incident that's about to end up in court.
On one side of Jack, slouching on his chair, is Glenn (Andrew Cutcliffe), none too bright and accused of ramming his car into the back of his boss’ new Mercedes. Accompanying him is his mum Maureen (Ally Fowler), who just wants to keep Glenn on the straight and narrow, and mate Barry (Kristian Schmid) who promises to hurt anyone who hurts Glenn.
On the other side is Glenn’s boss Greg (Warren Jones), whose entourage is markedly bigger and includes his wife Claire (Fiona Press), foreman Richard (Jamie Oxenbould), accountant Therese (Catherine McGraffin), PA Julie (Jessica Sullivan) and the outspoken Luka (Adriano Cappelletta).
Greg’s only goal is to keep his no-claim bonus and get back to running his scaffolding business as soon as possible. But of course there’s more to it than that and as the play progresses, each character is revealed to have played a part in Glenn’s final flip-out.
Face to Face was written in 2000 and despite a few minor tweaks by director Sandra Bates to bring it up to speed (I’m fairly sure the jokes about Hugh Jackman weren’t in the original); it barely shows its age at all. Thanks to some recent headlines and well-publicised cases, the subject of workplace bullying has never been more relevant, and Williamson’s powers of observation on middle class complacence are – and always have been – second to none.
Bates has assembled a universally excellent cast to deliver the play. Glenn Hazeldine is good as the professionally patient and deliberately unobtrusive Jack, while other standouts include Adriano Cappelletta as the aggressive but frustrated Luka, and Ensemble newcomer Kristian Schmid as the unpredictable Barry. As super-shy accountant Therese, Catherine McGraffin commands the stage when she finally does summon up the courage to talk.
As Glenn, Andrew Cutcliffe is in turns deliberately obstinate and utterly clueless. There’s no credit given for costume design, but special mention should be made of Glenn’s denim jacket and shiny blue wedding tie combination, which smacks of the often peculiar clothing combinations donned by those due for their day in court.
It’s the sort of subtle detail that tells as much about the wearer, his personal history and social standing, as any of the words Williamson puts in his mouth.