10 September 2012

Play review. Reasons to be Pretty.

            There may be several reasons for you not to go and see Reasons to be Pretty running this autumn at The English Theatre, Hamburg, but the acting should not be one of them. Jed Shardlow, Madeleine Hutchins, Chris Casey and Gabrielle Douglas all act with intensity in a play and serving a script that is undeserving of their abilities.
            Steph (played by Madeleine Hutchins) reacts furiously when she hears from her friend Carly that Steph’s partner, Greg, had described her face as, ‘regular.’ Carly had overheard this statement, part of a conversation between Carly’s husband, Kent, and Greg. This single, ‘regular’ provides the main textual motivation behind the one-hundred minutes of theatre that follow. It spurs Steph onto ending her relationship with Greg, and to finding a new marriage partner who will say exclusively those things about her appearance that her fetishism of her own body demands.
            That this plot contrivance is in itself unconvincing is beside the point. It’s rather how this device is blindly used to attempt to force a message that the play as a whole is refusing to carry.
      The action closes with Greg telling us in a soliloquy how he’s done penance for his ‘regular’ faux-pas, how he now’s learnt something essential about human interaction: “what does it take to be nice? Hardly anything at all.” Yet all significant deeds in the play we’ve just seen have had nothing to do with the virtue of niceness. Justifying breaking up a long-term, fairly successful relationship on the pretext of a single, tactless comment made by your partner. Starting an affair when your wife – who you’re strongly sexually attracted to – is eight months pregnant. Finding the will-power to end a best-friendship after years of knowing your best-friend’s a bullying yob. All zero-niceness actions. The zero location being pretty much where Greg’s personable, closing plea floats off to, unable to connect itself with anything we’ve just seen, or imagined seeing.

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