A provocative performance.
It would be easy to assume that a production of this nature would be far too heavy to watch as it touches on themes of grooming, radicalization, religion, gender and politics. However, as the drama unfolds through fast-paced conversation, there is a constant drip of humour which adds a necessary refreshing tone.
The audience are pulled into the story of a well-educated young American teenager, Suzie Glen (Fiona Gent) who after eight months of communications with a Syrian fighter, Raza, converts to Islam over Twitter and plans to move to Syria to join ISIS. She is now dealing with the consequences of her actions and is being prosecuted by the federal government for being a terrorist. As the case unfolds, the central focus of the audience is pulled towards both women, Suzie and the lead prosecutor, Claire Fathi (Paige Round). Claire is a recent Harvard Law graduate and a practicing Muslin dealing with her own personal struggles and trying to stand by her faith and her new role as a prosecutor, knowing full well that she was brought onto this case because she wears a hijab.
The comedic banter between the prosecuting lawyer’s, Paige Round’s Claire and Matt Mella’s Scott Bader adds a wonderful flow to the text and lifts the whole performance. During the tense cross-examination scenes, Claire displays strength and determination as she desperately and accurately puts the pressure on Suzie, trying to force her to slip up. Paige Round’s fantastic performance shows a beautiful mix of vulnerability and power and sits right at the core of the piece.
There is a wonderful exploration of vulnerability, of flawed individuals throughout the piece. Suzie’s farther, Alan Glenn (Fearon McElroy) is the gentle sympathetic farther who is captivating to watch as he tries to be the strong, understanding single parent, having Suzie’s best interests at heart but struggling to comprehend her choices.
Scene changes are quick and sharp, lead by a simple light change and projected images which hint to the location of the scene, from the lawyer’s office to outside the court house etc. We also see the faceless Syrian fighter who is represented by a projected emoji face during short scenes where the audience learn more about the communications between Suzie and Raza and how they escalated.
Overall, a thought-provoking performance which explores the dangers of the internet in the 21st century and the consequences of abusing it touching on topical themes around faith and the stigmatisation of Muslims. The acting is engaging and powerful with eruptions of debates mixed with fast-paced comic timing. Prav MJ and company should be proud of this production.
Faceless plays at the Park Theatre until 12th May
Images: Pete Le May.