When Dave moved south to London he left behind his family, wife Joanne and mounting financial woes in favour of a playground of riches, sex and shopping. 10 years on and Joanne wants payback with interest.
Faces in the Crowd offers a unique insight into 21st century London and the debts we accrue in the wake of seeking out our ambitions.
Leo Butler’s previous plays for the Royal Court are Lucky Dog, Redundant and Made of Stone. Other work includes I’ll Be The Devil which was staged by the RSC earlier this year.
Contains scenes of a sexual nature. Suitable for ages 18+.
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Dates in October
|Sat 18 Oct 2008||12:00am||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£15|
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4 stars Daily Telegraph, Dominic Cavendish, 22 October
‘Talk about bang on the money. Leo Butler’s outstanding new play – his best yet – catches the mood of the moment in its raw and devastating account of a couple who got swept along on a tide of easy credit, only to end up dashed against a northern rock of debt.
Ten years after he abandoned his wife Joanne, and Sheffield, for a fresh start in London, leaving piles of unpaid bills behind him, Dave – now a semi-successful recruitment consultant – is ready to face the music. He has invited Joanne down to stay in his Shoreditch pad for one night, to give her what she claims he owes her: the chance to have a baby. In those hard intervening years, she never found a decent new fella and so, as she approaches 40, it’s payback time: he is required to deposit something in her bonk balance, as it were. But we know from the moment Amanda Drew’s Joanne arrives to cast an unimpressed eye over Dave’s chic but shoeboxy flat that it’s going to be one hell of a night. As a decade’s worth of pent-up tension has them glugging back all available alcohol, brittle politeness gives way to vitriol and even threatened violence. A massive aggravating factor is London itself: the neighbour upstairs is banging away on a DIY job, further dampening the sex drive of Con O’Neill’s depressive Dave.
It all makes for an intensely pitiful scene that can shift in the space of a phrase from the bleakly funny to the unbearably excruciating. But there’s nowhere to avert your gaze: in an inspired stroke, Clare Lizzimore’s superb production seats the audience above the action, so that it bears down on the couple from all sides at ceiling-height. It’s as if the watching crowd has become the embodiment of the age’s multitudinous pressures.
I can’t think of a recent play that catches so acutely the way that, while it may be tough up North, it can be grim down South too. And with incredible deftness, Butler ponders the harsh predicament of women who flounder when they hit the glass ceiling of reproductive reality. Drew and O’Neill give their considerable all to the parts, and bravely bare their all too. While Drew may be too glamorous to look like someone who would be left on the shelf, she shades Joanne’s controlled bitterness beautifully, by turns spikey, scathing and softly pleading.
Always excellent, O’Neill mixes Dave’s showy airs and gruff graces, as well as his animal fury, with a saving sense of furtive inadequacy. There’s no inadequacy where Butler is concerned, though: this is a timely, savagely brilliant theatrical epitaph for the New Labour decade of shattered hopes and dreams turned sour.’