Beauty is Difficult

Beauty Is Difficult

heartBeast Vicious Theatre Ensemble

Trinity Hall

7th July – 28th July 

Reviewed by Meredith McLean

Image by Gerry Nicholls.

In the busy, funny little ways that life likes to pull us it had me in such a grip that I hadn’t seen a play in a while. Starved for some theatre I waited hungrily for the opening night of Beauty Is Difficult to finally come. The night was cold, the coffee was warm and Trinity Hall had been transformed. Already a wonderfully eerie pool of echoes the church now lit up with purple stage lights and hazy smoke.

Admittedly I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect from this daring project. To call it a “play” is far too simplistic for Michael Beh and heartBeast’s endeavours. What you are drawn into is a living, breathing production of memories. The stage clutches four universally recognised, beautiful femme fatales of theatre in its illusive hand like puppets as their stories compete for the crown of beauty. Phedre, Emma Bovary, Anna Karenina and Hedda Gabler.  Their memories and passions interact and project with iniquitous men who phase and form to the desires of these women.

If you’re not familiar with the women and their stories never fear. The playbill does well to explain their origins. The plot is not quite linear but neither is it nonsensical. It felt to me a circular motion of progression. The story works like many cogs ticking in spirals until the explosive ending. It does draw its conclusion after an hour and a half with no intermission. Which is about as much as anyone should sit still for. I feel this is a vice of the creators. The production is their baby and it’s always hard to eliminate or shave off scenes when you have created them. But I think some lines could have made greater impact if they were solitary rather than being repeated in numerous moments.
I was sad not to meet those responsible for the stage. Jason Harding’s light design gave the smoke filled hall a raw wickedness. It felt like everything has been positioned just for me. The devilish silhouettes of Hamish Nicholson, Steve Pearton and Jason Ward Kennedy backed up against the far wall lined up perfectly with the lighted streams of smoke. They melted then stood tall again like the horizon of a highway on a hot day. Making the lines they delivered even more haunting under the lights.

After the show I was lucky enough to speak with Jason Ward Kennedy. The man who said “Thanks, mate” when handed a drink was polarising to the shaded creature I saw on stage. His efforts to transform from a sweet admirer of Karenina to the cruel friend of Hedda Gabler were both different, but nothing like the affable Jason I got to speak with. Being one of the newer additions to heartBeast’s wonderful family he beamed at me when saying, “…it’s only on and upward” for heartBeast now.

Image by Gerry Nicholls.

Beauty Is Difficult is definitely one of heartBeast’s more exotic productions. The movement consultant for this show, Warwick Comber, brings an erotic pulse to the timeless tango. Not only completing daring feats in the ballroom but taking a dance and making it almost murderous. There is a vampiric quality to the cast. They interact upon the audience’s vibes. They become subdued when we are pensive. They thrash and yell when they can tell we are alert. Even in the awkward stage mishap of a chair breaking they become comical and jovial when they feel our laughter.
Playing on that sense of intimacy even with a large audience is a murder mystery quality that sizzles right form walking in the door. No one knows who will have “an arrow through the heart” because beautiful actresses represent all four of the women. However, someone has to take the fall in this strange purgatory and no one will know until the final death waltz. So prepare yourself for heartBeast Vicious Theatre Ensemble’s night of passion, fear and beauty.

Image by Gerry Nicholls.


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