Written for Whatsonstage.com
Trading Faces, a new drama by Richard Bevan, is a short yet wide-ranging play about the complexities and duplicities involved in both short – and long-term relationships. Concerned with the difficulties of maintaining a relationship in modern day London, Bevan vividly realises the problems that confront lesbian, gay and straight couples – and those that lie somewhere outside such strict boundaries.
The stories of the various couples dovetail neatly with one another, and the varied settings provide momentum and sustain our interest in this group of romantic misfits. Bevan is at his best when he roves towards more taboo subject matter, in particular the relationship of a personal tutor with her disillusioned teenage student. Intelligently played by Georgia Winters and Stacha Hicks, this unconventional relationship is grippingly charged. The play struggles a little when Bevan attempts to bring the scenes of each couple’s realisation together at once; the parallels do not all arrive naturally, and verge on the contrived. Though Trading Faces seems concerned to show the inevitability of disappointment when two people become attached, it has a stronger hook when highlighting the individuality of the circumstances portrayed, rather than when suggesting their uniformity.
Both Bevan’s writing and Sam Rumbelow’s direction strive successfully for emotional and sexual honesty, and a knowable world is created in which mundanity gives way to thrill-seeking, and thrill-seeking is thwarted under the guilt of responsibility. In his endeavour to paint a universal picture, there’s a sense that Bevan tries to tick too many boxes; with nine characters, this compact play feels heavy laden, and its stories a tad superficial. Trading Faces probes only so far into the foibles and flaws of its characters, and we’re left wishing for a deeper penetration of its provocative subject matter.