Fight Face, Lyric Studio, London

Sophie Woolley has said that her new play takes its name from the way people’s faces distort as they become bent on aggression – and there are plenty of opportunities in the show to examine what she means. Fight Face follows 24 hours in the life of Jenghiz, a mild-mannered man who works in a west London kebab shop. He tries to serve food, but most of his time is spent dealing with the brawls in and around his shop. As soon as one fight is defused, another breaks out, and the police are generally out of sight at the crucial moment. Woolley explores the aggression that seems to simmer just below the surface in so much of society. It’s not an original subject, then, but the interest of the show lies in the way Woolley and her fellow actor David Rubin handle it.

Between them, the two actors, directed by Gemma Fairlie, portray a dozen characters, several dogs and a cat, slipping from one to the other with just a change of stance and accent. Rubin is the decent Jenghiz, but also a drunken Scouser, a surly Pole (who won’t give his ex-girlfriend her cat back), a disaffected teenager, a burly builder and an ineffectual policeman. Woolley is the fuming Polish girlfriend, the builder’s workmate, a woman police officer, a harassed single mother, a drunken gallery owner and a foul-mouthed teenager. They flirt and fume, building up to a scrap in which they hurl each other about the floor.

While the subject is serious, the style is breezily comic, with Woolley’s script demonstrating an astute feel for colloquial speech. And what is remarkable is that Woolley, who is deaf, incorporates captions into the design. So while droll animations by Douglas O’Connell and Steve May of fire-engines, pneumatic drills, bawling babies and barking dogs create the rowdy atmosphere of the street, the script also appears, line by line, among the images, like graffiti. This is not a perfect show by any means – some of the characters slip into cliché – but it has likeable energy and wit and the integration of the captions is inspired.

Tel 0871 221 1722

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