By Kylie Eastley
13 July 2011
Beautiful is a dark, challenging and menacing production that is also riveting. Last night I sat in the Backspace Theatre to see this new work, written by Carrie McLean and directed by Kate Gaul. I am not going to detail the storyline too much, as I don't want to give anything away, but I will say it is a Tasmanian production that audiences should make the effort to see.
Set against a stark, domestic scene Beautiful is the telling of three interwoven stories. The common thread is the ghost Rachel, played by Jane Johnson; in a simple cotton dress, who floats, twists and tortures her way among the other players. Hers is a very physical performance that is genuine, raw and energetic. For me, Rachel was a highlight.
The combination of well-executed elements make this production successful. A simple set including large, white, floating curtains at the rear of the stage add to the haunting nature of the stories. Darren Willmott's lighting design provides a seamless and vital accompaniment to the storyline. The use of projection and film converts the simple set into a rich tapestry of memory, while Daryl Wallis's composition and sound add significantly to the mood.
However, it is McLean's crisp and choreographed script that is the driving force behind this production. A mix of dialogue and prose, which is captivating and poetic.
'You can't shut us out, we bite you at night'.
For the most part the script is overlaid; a barrage of stories unravelling around each other, punctuated with ghostly gasps or chorused words. This works exceptionally well, and even at its most chaotic and incomprehensible, it succeeds in heightening the sense of trauma, anguish and hunger of characters that have all been damaged by grief.
I loved the direction the work took towards the end. It was challenging, confronting and exactly what I want to see when I go to live theatre. It wasn't comfortable and easy, and must have been such a pleasure for the performers. All of them were consistent and convincing and worked beautifully as an ensemble.
I will certainly look out for more work by McLean and would encourage audiences to experience the debut season of Beautiful.
Beautiful is a Mudlark Theatre Production presented by the Tasmanian Theatre Company that runs until July 16.