A young couple meet, the relationship blooms, then goes through a rough patch and eventually ends when they are much older. Was it meant to be? Are the events in our lives accidental or controlled by outside forces? Within a standard love story, Nude boldly states that fate has the final word over life, death and love. Playwright Paul Hewitt relies on poetry and narration to tell this tiny, intimate tragedy that feels sadly familiar, like flicking through a dusty photo album of mostly forgotten family members whose memories thrive through stories. Poignant and competently executed, with gaps in the narrative that raise plenty of questions, Hewitt’s script skilfully uses language to depict this couple’s journey and the heavy hand that the personified Fate employs to convince us that we have free will.
Hewitt doesn’t rely on metaphors or overly flowery vocabulary in his rhyming poetry. His language is simple, almost pedestrian, but prettily structured and flows easily from the actors’ mouths. There are a lot of words though, and it’s delivered so quickly that there isn’t much time for in-depth processing. The narrative is a bit chunky with large sections missing and the length of time passing is consequently unclear. His characters are lovely and easy to relate to, though the heteronormative, white, middle class casting of the nameless everyman and woman, that are the focal point of this story, uncomfortably captures the lack of diversity theatre still struggles with. This is countered by a diverse production team and Fate, but romantic leads still lack diversity all to often.
Michelle Fahrenheim and Edward Nash are the charismatic couple controlled by Roshni Rathore as Fate. The three have a relaxed, watchable confidence and natural chemistry, though Fate clearly has the upper hand at all times, even when watching from the peripheral shadows. It creates a great dynamic that’s reminiscent of Prospero or a serious Puck.
Minglu Wang’s minimalist cube that contains the couple in the middle of the space is used well by director Ian Nicholson. Nicholson also incorporates some symbolic black thread, creating a sinister web that further traps the Woman and Man inside their box. This device could have been used more heavily to create a stronger sculptural effect, but was still a nice touch. Creating a space in the round emphasises the idea that the couple are constantly watched and controlled by outside forces – a canny choice.
Though Hewitt’s intention is to focus on a wider philosophical idea, his couple’s story steals the spotlight. Their timeless romance is achingly tragic and well executed textually and through Nicholson’s staging. Nude manages to move the heart even with its small faults, and taps into timeless truths about love, fear and loss.
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