‘Reasons to be Pretty’ was confronting.
People act in bizarre ways when they find themselves infatuated, after all, all’s fair in love and war. But when love stagnates, wars brew and hearts break. ‘Reasons To Be Pretty’ at Brisbane Arts Theatre was no surface-level drama. Audiences didn’t merely see a boy meets girl narrative and leave the theatre feeling floaty.
‘Reasons To Be Pretty’ delved into the small moments which carry the potential to sever relationships. It was a production which examined the human connection in a raw, honest, and enlightening way that left audiences considering the elements of true beauty.
The show follows the story of two couples as they navigate a tumultuous period in their respective relationships. Greg and Stephanie are a long-standing duo, however, a seemingly small slip of Greg’s tongue sees their entire relationship come crumbling down. Kent and Carly seem to be living the life of wedded bliss until audiences begin to realise that looks aren’t everything. ‘Reasons To Be Pretty’ not only shows the impacts of superficiality but demonstrates the complexity of the human condition and the way society interacts and influences it.
Theatre is not solely about the costumes, sets, props and lighting, although these elements clearly play a vital role in the success of the show. Ultimately, the crux of theatre is allowing a story to be told, and it is in this area that ‘Reasons To Be Pretty’ certainly succeeded. At its core, this production was simple, there was nothing ‘flashy’ about it.
Lights came up and down to herald the beginning and end of a scene and the basic chairs and flats were moved around to signify different locations. There was nowhere to hide within this production and it is to the credit of director Hannah Kassulke for allowing the truthfulness of the script to shine through. Blocking and character connection was natural and did not encumber the cast in expressing their emotions. Every movement, word and connection worked seamlessly together to make audiences connect to the character’s stories on an emotional level.
The set was simple and effective, which complemented the blocking of the production. While the pieces on stage did not entirely resemble a living room, restaurant pavement, shopping centre or staffroom, the basic staging was enough to place the audience within the context of the action. The set was not pivotal to the narrative, it merely allowed the audience to place the scene and then focus on the action occurring on stage.
However, it may have helped the realistic nature of the production to add a little more attention to the backdrop paintings. While effective in communicating the context of a scene, these could have been crafted more in line with the realism exhibited in the rest of the play. For example, the sign for the restaurant and the map in the shopping centre seemed a little rushed and both were clearly hand-painted. It’s these small fixes which take a largely effective production and give it a little more polish and sparkle.
Opening night set and tech changes always bring their own level of a challenge and there were a number of fumbles throughout the night, which impacted the otherwise effective flow of the show. There were moments when set pieces were placed incorrectly and then moved several times within the blackout. This was distracting for the invested audience and broke the crowd out of their theatrical spell. At the beginning of each scene, audiences had to refocus their attention after fairly lengthy set changes. These moments will likely be tightened throughout the run of the show.
‘Reasons To Be Pretty’ demands a lot from its actors. The challenge lies in the realism of the show and actors must be wholly invested in every moment of it, otherwise, the emotionally driven script runs the risk of sounding overplayed. The stellar cast of four handled this task with finesse and skill.
Tanaka Utete was endearing in his portrayal of Greg and navigated the sensitivity and strength of the character with intelligence. Emma Reynolds as Stephanie delivered the highlight performance of the night. A challenge lies in operating at a high level of emotion throughout the entire production, however, Reynolds was able to find the moments of quiet amongst an otherwise volatile character.
Matthew Oberg as Kent and Camille Chorley as Carly meshed perfectly as a couple and gave audiences more than one steamy moment. Kent is the antithesis of true beauty, although attractive on the outside, audiences quickly realise that his attractiveness is only skin deep. Oberg’s performance was believable and added nuance into a character that could otherwise be fairly one dimensional. Chorley as Kent’s wife Carley was stunning in her connection with other characters and with herself. Carley goes through a large emotional journey within the play and Chorley allowed audiences to watch-on as an otherwise strong character broke down.
The world is a superficial place where people are often judged on their looks before their character is considered. ‘Reasons To Be Pretty’ intelligently balances physical attractiveness and internal beauty in a way that challenges audiences to examine the way they view the world. Pretty or plain, this production shows that neither impact the person you are, it is merely a way society has been conditioned to judge.
‘Reasons To Be Pretty’ plays at Brisbane Arts Theatre until Tuesday, 24 September 2019. For tickets and additional information visit the Brisbane Arts Theatre’s Website.