How far will government go to protects its borders from terrorism? Faceless pits religious struggle against itself in this court case.

The war on terror – America wants blood. But are they prepared to go after one of their own, one who has been arrested and prosecuted as a terrorist for attempting to flee the country as an ISIS bride? Are they willing to push for lifetime imprisonment when this individual is a white, blonde, 18-year-old girl? That’s exactly the question that Selina Fillinger throws out at us in Faceless, a show that prosecutes the female because the male is an anonymous recruiter over social media.

Faceless Park Theatre

Fiona Gent & Sam Thorpe-Spinks (image courtesy of Pete Le May)

Fillinger also cross-examines the perception of faith from one born into a religion versus one who has chosen to convert, albeit under suspect circumstances. But Susie Glenn (Fiona Gent) is of sound mind when she chooses to follow the teachings of Islam – her defence lawyer Mark Arenberg (Sam Thorpe-Spinks) uses the argument that she was misguided in bowing to the dulcet tones of disembodied voice (and projected emoji) Reza. She is played as being shallow, stupid, self-absorbed – all stereotypes of the lazy, naïve teenage persona. But Glenn and Arenberg are themselves superficial in their performances; their characters lack depth and as such convey no personality beneath the pretence. These reactions lack believability.

Faceless Park Theatre

Paige Round & Matt Mella (image courtesy of Pete Le May)

On the side of the prosecution is practicing Muslim lawyer Claire Fathi (Paige Round), brought on to the case by law firm hotshot Scott Bader (Matt Mella) purely for appearances – a Muslim persecuting a Muslim will detract from the image of the American government victimising an innocent little girl. Mella is insensitive and toxic in exerting his superiority, playing to every chauvinist stereotype in the book. But his characterisation fits with Fillinger’s narrative – the greasy, slimy white man who sits in the ivory tower and exerts his influence over those he is able to manipulate or scaremonger.

As Fathi, Round gives a credible performance, caught up in her commitment to do what is right by her country yet doing nothing to rebut the perception that strong, confident career women are cold and unlikeable. Fillinger writes Fathi in stereotype, lacking personality or devoid of emotion for much of the production, because in her industry that would be a sign of weakness. Round’s performance further cements this concept.

Faceless Park Theatre

Paige Round (image courtesy of Pete Le May)

Faceless has the potential to throw out questions about religious beliefs, challenge a justice system that is hellbent on persecuting at all costs and expand the rhetoric around toxic superiority & male chauvinism. But it doesn’t; it hangs in stasis and lacks impact or drive. Prav MJ’s direction and design are distinctly absent of purpose, papered over with some shoddy projection work and far too many moments of addressing the audience when the characters should be at loggerheads with each other.

Overall the show feels void, provocative without intelligence and well-intended without subtle execution. The male battle should feel like a machoistic, outdated pissing contest; the female a much more complicated exchange of religious conflict and national pride. But without any sense of tension, Faceless is half-cooked, limping over the line instead of smashing down the barriers.

 

 

★★☆☆☆

Faceless runs at Park Theatre until 12 May 2018. For further information, please visit the venue website.