Review: Putting A Face On, The Old Vic
4.0Overall Score

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“What power can one voice have?” This is the question that the Old Vic poses to the world in their brand-new series of monologues, One Voice.

Kicking off the week-long programme, for celebrating International Women’s Day, Putting A Face On, shines a light on the scary reality of gaslighting in a funny, and ultimately empowering monologue, performed by Susan Wokoma.

For those who don’t know, gaslighting is sadly an everyday form of psychological abuse. Common signs of gaslighting include: being accused of being too sensitive, making excuses for another’s behaviour and feeling like everything you think and do is wrong, because of how a person makes you feel. Repetitive manipulation can cause a person to lose sight of their worth and truth, which may make them question their own sanity and judgement. So, it’s crucial to be aware of the signs.

Putting A Face On, written and directed by Kiri Pritchard-McLean, is a piece in three parts where a woman is at three very different stages of a toxic relationship. In the first part, she feels optimistic about being in lockdown with her partner and laughs about how hard she feels she is to love. She then becomes paranoid and convinces herself that she can’t leave him, since he’s in a bad place, mentally. And finally, after the breakup, we see this woman begin to find herself again.

What’s clever about this monologue, is that it’s incredibly subtle in its themes. Like another silent and unseen pandemic, the notion that this woman is being mentally abused comes in waves and whispers; it goes unnoticed for so long until reaching an insanely obvious crisis point, where our character ends up questioning, “How did I let this happen?”

The text goes to those dark places of the mind, the ones where you can only get to and explore by yourself when alone, or in isolation, but at no point does it feel heavy and unbearable – it’s grippingly tender. Pritchard-McLean’s writing is niche, powerful and relevant, all whilst featuring some wacky, off-the-cuff humour.

Wokoma is captivating, bubbly and charismatic. She’s a joy to watch and you forget you’re engaged in a piece of theatre – you feel like you’re listening to your best friend telling you a story.

Intimate and simple, Putting A Face On, couldn’t have been presented at a timelier moment as the Domestic Abuse Bill returns to the House of Lords for a second reading. But, also our character’s fears for the present and distant future resonates with all of us as we still battle what feels like a never-ending lockdown. The piece ends with a hopeful message, and one that I think is important to remember: “It’s going to be okay, and that’s good enough for now.”

Putting A Face On is available to stream online at the Old Vic’s YouTube Channel.