Game Face, Q Theatre, 25th February 2020 Theatre Review

“If you can’t control your own body, why should you be in charge of anything else?” Game Face examines the societal pressures on the female form, which only increased with the arrival of social media: women of all ages, picking, plucking, tightening and forever searching for the perfect light with which to make their next Instagram photo just right.

It is a topic that has been discussed on many a platform, and yet supermodels still look out from the magazine pages, taunting women with their unachievable figures, while weight loss advertisements cast side eyes and ask if enough is being done in the pursuit of that summer bikini body.

Game Face presents the stories of three women, told through a series of songs, games, dance and spoken word. Lexi Clare, Lucy Park and Katie Paterson, who also wrote and brought this production to life, each have faced their own struggles with their reflections in the mirror, each have questioned their self-worth in a world where looks are everything. Effervescent as they stand before the audience, it is clear that the three young women are passionate about the tales they tell, their at times chaotic and loose performance style, alluding to how their day to day lives felt when battling eating disorders and thoughts of suicide.

And here lies the crux of the issue. Underneath the amusing songs and playful banter is the cold, hard truth; society is destroying its own. The burden not one carried solely by the youth either, not only are girls as young as nine or ten succumbing to peer pressure and diet fads, but women in their twenties and thirties are expected to look their best at all times, skin smooth, bright and flawless, make-up impeccable. Those facing menopause often suffering from loneliness and the invisibility that sadly comes with being an older woman.

Game Face challenges these ideas head on, using their personal experiences to shine a light on the absurdity of not only external pressures, but those from within; mawkish ‘Love the Skin Your In’ motivational quotes nothing more than passing Facebook posts, or words spoken through gritted teeth and false smiles to oneself at 3am in the morning when depression begins to rap on the window. Often echoing each other’s lines, or talking over each other at rapid pace – Clare at one point donning a brown sack for a tongue in cheek visual representation of how many women feel – the trio give an insight into the madness that is often running through the neural pathways each and every day for women as they consistently strive for a level of achievement that should never have been set in the first place.

“If you can’t control your own body, why should you be in charge of anything else?”

It is a line that falls so easily from Park’s lips, an intelligent, vivacious personality who could take out American Idol in one foul swoop with her vocal pirouettes, and yet there was a time where she was shamed and cast aside due to being overweight. Why does society question a woman’s abilities based on her appearance? Surely such a trivial thing should not matter. And yet, beautiful, strong women are accused of being a bitch if they make it to the top, while others are questioned about what they were wearing the night they were assaulted. To smile too much is to be fake, to smile too little is to be snobbish. To be fat shouts that one has let themselves go.

Does it ever truly end?

A guest appearance for the New Zealand season of Game Face from Amanda Grace Leo adds yet another element to the performance, the instructions given to her by Paterson allowing for a mere five minutes on stage, and yet the moment communicates so much, not only about her own body image but in how the audience are instructed to ‘slow clap’ her from the stage; a nod to how society often dismisses the voices of those its opinions deems unworthy.

While the fast-paced style of the production may be somewhat distracting, it speaks of the constant spears of oppression, intimidation and mis-information that are aimed at women today. The ‘quick fix’ tips that boom through the speakers only adding to the melee as the trio seek out that which might assist them in attaining true perfection.

Dark subject matters are indeed touched upon, but they are done so with care and a little humour, for what else can one do when facing the abyss but smile? The metaphorical representation of Clare’s eating disorder (EDNOS) both cleverly and beautifully presented in such a way as to demonstrate the crushing intricacies that such disorders can harbour without alienating the attendees.

Both fresh and relatable, presents its audiences with important topics of discussion as well as the encouragement to carry on those conversations in ones wider circles; to change the status quo one must challenge it both from within and together.

~Sarah Kidd

Game Face is playing at Q Theatre until Saturday Feb 29 2020. More information and ticket sales HERE.