archive review (edinburgh) | Read in About 2 minutes
Published 12 Aug 2010

There was once a feature on Russell Brand's radio show called "Sounds Nice, Is Nasty", which was devoted to mis-interpretable words. Ethnic cleansing and friendly fire were both mentioned; 'comfort women', the subject of Face, could well have been included. The label was given to the thousands of sex slaves the Japanese army employed in World War II. 

Coerced or kidnapped from Japan's occupied territories, around 200,000 women are thought to have been forced into the military brothels supposedly sanctioned by the Imperial Army. The Japanese government has yet to issue a formal apology for the treatment of 'comfort women' and for years refused to even acknowledge their existence. The ETS Theatre Company's starkly assertive Face is one of the few places you will hear the victims' testimonies, which took some 40 years to recount. 

Written and performed solely by Haerry Kim, Face re-enacts the account of one young Korean girl, shipped to a Japanese military base and repeatedly raped morning until night by soldiers feeling a tad homesick. The nature of the subject renders theatrics and costumes inappropriate, and to an actor like Kim they are superfluous. She is an astonishing performer, completely believable as both the elderly scarred survivor and the innocent young girl.
While engaging from start to finish, it is a difficult show to watch and one whose subject matter completely eclipses its production values. You may not enjoy watching Face, but it will feel like a necessary education on an issue rarely dramatised.