The Victoria Theatre Guild has, increasingly in recent years, mounted some adventuresome plays. These include The History Boys and The Laramie Project — both of which examine the issue of homosexuality, and in the latter, a horrific murder.
The Guild ushers in the new year with another edgy offering. That Face caused a stir when it premièred in London in 2007. Penned by the then-19-year-old l’enfant terrible Polly Stenham, the semi-autobiographical play features a teen who drugs a classmate and a pill-popping, booze-swilling mom whose hothouse relationship with her son borders on the incestuous.
And the award-winning drama offers oodles of swearing.
In a release for the upcoming Langham Court production, Judy Treloar warns That Face “is not for the faint-hearted or anyone who believes all families are perfect. So, brave, men, women and teenagers only.”
“I just think you’ve got to have the guts to come and see it,” Treloar said between rehearsals at the theatre. “And hopefully talk about it on your way home.”
In That Face, Mia is suspended from school for feeding another student Valium. Her brother, Henry, has dropped out to take care of their mother, Martha (who’s been compared to the notorious Martha from Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?). A harrowing examination of neuroticism, family dysfunction and abuse, the play spurred one New York Times critic to write: “When it comes to flashy portraits of demented, child-destroying moms and dads (especially moms), you can’t beat the theatre.”
Treloar decided she wanted to direct That Face after seeing a 2009 production in Auckland, New Zealand. The production was so raw and powerful, she couldn’t believe she wasn’t witnessing real life.
“I felt like I was prying into someone’s dysfunctional life,” the veteran director said. “She’s writing from the gut.She’s writing what she wants.”
Due to the content, the Guild’s production committee initially turned down her proposal to direct the play. Treloar persevered in her bid — and finally got the green light.
The rehearsal process has, at times, been harrowing. Actors and director are sometimes moved to tears — an unusual thing in theatre, Treloar said.
“By the time the working rehearsal is over, we’re just all exhausted, devastated.”
Where: Langham Court Theatre
When: Jan. 16 to Feb. 2
Tickets: $21, $19 (250-384-2142)
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