A Beautiful Thing did not shy away from audience participation, and frequently invited the audience to play an active role. This was a fact which seemed to come as news to the onlookers at the Lofthouse Theatre, Nottingham, where the play was shown on the 22nd of November. Despite the initial shared looks of discomfort around the room, the audience soon relaxed as it became clear what Emma White was attempting to achieve.
”The idea behind this was that the undeniable intimacy that manifested itself between painter and subject created a plane from which the above mentioned themes could be examined”
The play aimed to explore the themes of sexuality, infatuation, and the difference between love and desire. This was attempted partly through comparing the reactions of various models to being painted naked by the character of Freddie, played by Harry Pavlou. The idea behind this was that the undeniable intimacy that manifested itself between painter and subject created a plane from which the above mentioned themes could be examined.
The experiences of the models varied in positivity, some feeling empowered, others uncomfortable, at being painted by an infatuated artist.
”The disturbing scene in which Freddie demands her to stop talking and strip naked were unsettling but executed well, and Chloe Richardson mastered the feelings of insecurity”
The script captured perfectly these raw emotions, and the uneasiness of the main protagonist Rachel, played by Chloe Richardson at being objectified, and valued purely on her looks. The disturbing scene in which Freddie demands her to stop talking and strip naked were unsettling but executed well, and Chloe Richardson mastered the feelings of insecurity, and distress on stage.
The monologues from the actors especially from the main three; Freddie, Rachel, and Natalia were very engaging and entertaining, whilst exploring the themes, and probing the audience to reflect on its preconceived ideas of beauty.
For audience engagement this play was certainly spot on, and had the crowd laughing, and on the edge of their seats when certain people from the audience were singled out. While exploring the idea of being stared at and complimented, the art dealer played by Natalia Gonzalez, blurred the barriers between the audience and the actors, by inviting a member of the audience to come and stare at another member of the audience, and closely examine them.
Freddie also did this when he singled out someone in the audience and complimented them. These moments definitely took the audience aback, and were slightly unnerving at first. However, it underlined clearly the idea that it is uncomfortable to be scrutinized, and complimented on our appearance, and how this puts somebody is a state of unease.
Thus, both the audience and the models in the theatre were put under similar inspection (minus stripping naked which was mockingly suggested), which allowed the audience to evaluate for itself how it feels to be looked fixedly at.
”The stark lighting executed by lighting designer Joe Heil, also conveyed these themes, with harsh exposure at times, and others of moody darkness”
The transition between scenes could have been more linked, there were times when it could be questioned as to why a certain scene succeeded the previous one. However, the use of the Lofthouse as a venue, worked extremely well; the minimalist set, white washed walls and small room, all mirrored the themes of nudity, feeling exposed, and allowed the audience to become easily involved in this intimate setting.
The stark lighting executed by lighting designer Joe Heil, also conveyed these themes, with harsh exposure at times, and others of moody darkness, which reflected the feelings of exposure, sadness or empowerment.
Director Emma White, and Producer Darcey Graham have created an original and unique way of combining these complex themes with comedy, by involving the audience to create a masterly fresh exploration of defining beauty.
7 – Highly engaging
Image courtesy of Nottingham New Theatre