Maiden Speech: Game Face – work in progress (Tristan Bates Theatre)

Devised and performed by Lexi Clare (who has produced the whole Maiden Speech festival), Lucy Park (fresh from the marvellous Tokyo Rose) and Katie Paterson, Game Face looks at issues around beauty, perceptions of female identity, mental health and queerness, through quick fixes, confessions, and riotous games.

Lexi Clare
Lexi Clare

The three women in the cast start off with a song about beauty, and the value society puts on certain “norms” such as a skinny body, light skin, well-fitting clothes. The assumption is also that society expects women to dress up, paint their faces, and generally refrain for “letting themselves go”.

Game Face explores, in an accessible and fairly light-hearted style, how these aspirations and expectations can cause problems ranging from a lack of personal confidence to eating disorders and mental health conditions.

Stylistically, it needs time to focus and settle, and I found some aspects worked more effectively than others. Lucy, for example, slipping into her native Korean now and then, didn’t really feel as if it had a purpose, and was quickly forgotten. The jenga game between Lexi and Lucy was full of skill, but pethaps distracted from the accompanying discussion.

Lexi Clare and Lucy Park
Lexi Clare and Lucy Park

What did work well was the personal aspect of the show. In the competition section it felt very much as if we were engaging with the real experiences of the cast and not characters they had created. This in turn led audience members to reflect (quietly!) on their own experiences with weight and body image.

Equally strong was a song from Katie about the Daphne-Apollo myth, where he pursued her until she called for help and was turned into a tree. Even then, his dominance was asserted as he plucked her leaves to create celebratory laurels.

There is a lot here to develop into a show that feels coherent – I’d either move the projected text so we can see it (if it is key to the show), or drop it (if it isn’t) – but Game Face is a funny and thorough look at the unrealistic expectations that plague us, driven by money-making companies and the male gaze.

Game Face continues tomorrow at 8.30pm in the Tristan Bates Theatre.