It's difficult to determine who the real star is in this piece; the exquisite writing, or the equally perfect performance. That both are the work of the same person... truly impressive stuff.
Almost Face To Face is a one hour dramatic monologue – just one raw man on a bare stage – by master of the form Stephen House. It recounts his stories of his time in Dublin, living with an overweight prostitute/landlord. Don't be mistaken, these are stories of fringe-dwellers, the truly down and out, the broken ones we see on the periphery of our comfortable lives. Prostitution, drug addiction, alcoholism, sex with strangers... it's all here, and it all feels so very, unflinchingly real.
Using the word exquisite when dealing with such subject matter might seem odd, but the writing of these gritty stories is absolutely exquisite. At times the monologues actually morph into poetry, a form I suspect Stephen House enjoys quite a lot. There is tenderness at times in the words, sometimes sadness, often anger.
And the delivery is equally well-executed. As a performer, Mr House has an impressive range. He can be a gentle soul, a weary soul, a broken soul and an angry soul all in a very short time. Sometimes as he prowls the tiny stage at The Butterfly Club, so real is his passion that you may find yourself in goosebumps.
There is an authenticity to Stephen's work that makes them important works we should pay attention to. In a review of another of his pieces (Appalling Behaviour, which is referenced in this piece), I think I said he gives a voice to those fringe dwellers we never really interact with. The fact that he has lived much of his material and is so eloquently able to share such gritty stories with us – and indeed that he is so willing to do so – is theatrically and personally impressive. If you're open to this kind of thing, you'll find yourself in a gentle state of awe, and you'll probably feel a sense of gratitude.
Not all is gutter and grime. There is actually much humour, in these stories of these broken humans. There are a few chuckle-out-loud moments, but there are many other moments where something is so tragically fucked up and kind of funny that rather than laugh, your heart melts. It's so funny, you'll think, but so fucking sad.
If you get out of your comfortable home for just one performance this week, make it this one. I promise, you will feel enriched.
Butterfly Club presents
Almost Face To Face
by Stephen House
Venue: Butterfly Club | Carson Place, off Little Collins St Melbourne VIC
Dates: 8 – 12 May 2018
ALSO - touring to other capitals afterwards