SWEARING?! LESBIANS?! DRUG ABUSE?! HOW TERRIBLY AVANT-GARDE! Apologies for the shouting but Facehunters seems keen to stress that if you have a message of any kind, you’re best off SCREAMING it. Best to add flashing lights as well to distract people from the glaring holes in it. Facehunters is a musical listed as ‘new writing’ (despite being here last year), supposedly based on the story of Dorian Gray.
It appears that the plot is based around two girls having their picture taken, then there is some irrelevant subplot about drugs where a minor character dies. That’s about all I can make out. A friend of mine recently described plot in a musical as being the pickle at the side of the plate (nice to have but not a deal breaker) and Facehunters certainly takes this mentality, except it takes the pickle and throws it in your face, occasionally shouting ‘LOOK, ISN’T THIS IRONIC?’
Before I go any further, I should explain that the entire cast are clearly very talented and it is this that single-handedly allows the show to progress beyond the one obligatory star. The singing, acting and dancing on display is clearly well-practiced and I imagine many of the cast will do better things in years to come.
Once you peer past the surface, Facehunters’ substance abuse is far worse than any that its characters partake in. The problem lies in the fact that the beginning of the play seems to deliberately serve up these characters as ridiculous, over-the-top and unlikeable. The show tries to sit down next to you as you watch and lean over to nudge, saying ‘Wow, aren’t these guys dicks?’ It does a very good a job at this. Unfortunately, the show forgets its self-awareness later on and tries to make the audience sympathise with its band of degenerates. Quiet, serious songs clearly meant to pluck the heartstrings go by unnoticed. As previously mentioned, a minor character takes drugs and dies. Apparently drugs are bad for you. Who knew? We’re meant to care. We didn’t.
Most of the songs are a chorus of loud, organised chaos, performed with appropriately fast-paced choreography. The songs are probably witty – too bad half the words are inaudible. Loud music will grab the attention of an audience but if you can’t hear the lyrics, it is pretty hard for anyone to engage. A fairly amusing song about hipsters shows that the show could perhaps have more success if it allowed its audience to actually hear what was being sung. As it is, most of the songs seem to be exactly the same, with occasional torrents of swearing meshed with a vomit of Urban Dictionary terms.
As mentioned before, these songs are not necessarily bad but the same song nine times loses the effect it may have had at the beginning. Facehunters devotes its energy to flash – strobe lighting, shouting, frantic choreography. Only a small subset of people might enjoy this show; perhaps people who find all the London-based worn-out hipster jokes hilarious every time they hear them. Those of us not weighted down with this horrible burden however will not be entertained.