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February Face | King's Head Theatre

February Face, written by and starring Keelan Kember and directed by Monica Cox, is funny from the offset and deeply moving. Playing at the new King's Head Theatre, the story follows Ed and his intrusive thoughts while he attempts to navigate dating life with a newly diagnosed anxiety disorder. Using pre-recorded sound cues to represent his own internal monologue, as well as the other characters (save for Lily, his love interest), is a bold choice, but one that ultimately pays off. Though technically there are several characters here, their invisibility helps the play to maintain the intimate feel of a two hander.

February Face is gentle, warm, and dripping with wit, reminiscent of a film from the golden age of romcoms (sans Hugh Grant). However, also similar to the golden age of romcoms, the female protagonist suffers a similar case of passivity. Though this play at times falls prey to the trope of romanticising the mentally ill woman - a trope far too common for comfort - it compensates with heart.

The tragedy of the play is marketed as Lily (Olivia Mills) and Ed’s inability to be together, but the real tragedy is the realisation of what mental illness can rob from those who suffer it. It may seem that this tragedy fails to hit as hard as it could, favoring comedy over heartbreak. But isn’t that what humans naturally do? Use comedy as a salve when the pain is too great? When February Face teeters too closely to raw nerves, the audience can trust Kember to throw them a joke to expertly turn the mood around.

In society at large, there is a lack of conversation around masculinity and mental health.

Kember fills this void in the narrative with February Face. The stand out moment of the show is when Ed and his friend Freddie share a tender moment of male intimacy, as Ed breaks down his walls and tells Freddie about the concerns that have carried him throughout the play. In a sea of media that represses male vulnerability, this scene was a refreshing deviation from strictly heteronormative narratives and restrictive gender performance, allowing for some fluidity.

February Face is a whip-smart, tight, and resoundingly millennial play that, in the short span of 80 minutes does a lot of leg work. It offers a hopeful option for what would otherwise be a bleak ending. February Face is running until 19th May at King’s Head Theatre - for more information and tickets, you can follow the link here.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (4*)

Gifted tickets in return for an honest review


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