Beautiful Damned, for

Anthony Patch, a debonair young man, begins building a house of cards on a table in a shabby bar. On the verge of collapsing, Anthony gives up on the cards almost immediately. He takes no risks, stopping before he has really begun, or grew bored. Both possibilities reflect the tumultuous years spent with his wife, Gloria. Anthony and Gloria’s relationship mirrors their Gatsbian world of excess: they are self –absorbed, often indifferent towards each other, either passionately in love or in hate. The play chronicles the highs, lows and love affairs of their 10-year relationship with energy, commitment, versatile performances in a dingy, speakeasy atmosphere.

Nadia Cavelle and James Hyde skillfully portray the journey of the couple’s relationship as they meet for a drink to relive their past. Even with pianist and barman Fitz (Guy Hughes) to support the plot, the production is essentially a two-hander. Their first date is tea at The Plaza; Anthony clearly loves Gloria at this point, but she only loves herself. As their relationship develops, so does Gloria’s empathy but we see that Anthony is equally self-absorbed and lazy. They want to drink and dance, but cannot be bothered to put the work in to pay for their indulgences. Other friends and acquaintances from their past join them, played by Hyde and Cavelle using costume pieces to signify the character change. Altering their voices and movement style, the actors show the character transitions clearly and demonstrate their characters’ absurd behaviour extends to their social circle. They fight and make up constantly. Everything is high drama in Anthony and Gloria’s world as the action flips back and forth between past and present.

Whilst the actors make the transitions well, the lights are slow to keep up. Obvious changes in the lighting state support these episodic time leaps, but are ill timed and not actually needed. The stage space is used effectively by director Ben Weaver-Hincks, but the audience has little breathing space. £3.50 mint juleps help ease the discomfort and the theatre will want to maximize audience capacity, but the seats could have used a bit more space around them. Direct address is used occasionally to include the audience, but could have been employed more. Having not read Fitzgerald’s novel, I cannot comment on the adaptation quality. The piano accompaniment certainly aids in creating atmosphere, but the highlight of this show is the performances.

The story must come to an end, however. Anthony reveals a certain indiscretion whilst stationed down south during the war. They are older, jaded and really quite damaged. There is a strong element of faded glamour, obviously reflected in the set design and decoration. The world they knew and relished so fully has collapsed and been rebuilt unrecognizably to them, a house of cards pushed to its limits again and again. Do they genuinely love each other? Perhaps. Like two playing cards able to stand because they lean on each other, these two childlike individuals cannot navigate reality on their own.

Intention: ☆☆☆☆

Outcome: ☆☆☆

Star Rating: ☆☆☆ 1/2

Originally posted on remotegoat:

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