Review: Facehugger

Written by Louis Rembges, Directed by Emily Aboud
Backstage Theatre, Catalyst Festival (ended on the 13th July)

4 stars

Matthew’s coming out went fine… Or did it? Wrapped in a suburban coming of age story is the brilliantly written Facehugger. Directed by Emily Aboud, the show takes an intelligent & individual look at the claustrophobia, fear and intimidation that society creates for the LGBTQI+ community.

“Do you ever wonder if there is a Tupperware fairy?…” In the opening domestic reflection on plastic storage containers & the imaginary beings that might control them, we meet Matthew (Douglas Clarke). Matt is a 20 something only child who appears to work as a redirector on an emergency services’ phone line.

Rembges offers a stream of consciousness and Clarke is engaging & present in his naturalistic approach to the text. The delivery felt slightly hammered at times, but overall Clarke’s character choices honour Matt’s journey.

The dialogue is sharp and fluid and we are quickly and comfortably slipped into Matt’s world by the relatability and attitude of the text. Rembges not only creates character and personality effectively, he is articulate in the images of domesticity that he paints.

We are offered conflict with Mum, outing three year old Matt in pre-school, “her lax use of the word faggot”, carrot sticks and hummus at family gatherings, and evenings watching the Bill with Dad… Or Reg, who looks like Dad anyway.

Inversely these moments of nostalgia are spliced & contrasted by confronting segments of Matt’s ominous phone conversations. Here the narrative introduces the other-worldly presence of Aliens, specifically Ridley Scott’s famous Facehugger. One of which exists in the walls of Mathews’ room. Rembges’ visceral sc-fi elements of the script are dripping in darkness, enveloping and rich.

The Alien concept firstly appears to be an abstract element of the world but as the show progresses, it reveals to be a cleverly layered metaphor for societal oppression.

The soundscape was woven into the piece seamlessly and screens depicting images of Alien and The Bill were an apt introduction to the world. However overall, creative direction wasn’t fully realized in comparison to what the writing offered. Development in the piece will come from the form. A man sitting in a chair talking to an audience for 50 minutes feels a little expired in 2019 theatre.

Facehugger might not shake the foundations of the status quo, but it also isn’t an obvious or cliché LGBTQI+ narrative full of sassy quips, drugs, sex and Madonna songs. This was truly refreshing, and brings its own progressive element to the stage. The show symbolizes the psychological challenge of existing in a homonormative world considered through a sci-fi lens.

© Bj McNeill

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