Following The Shape of Things and Fat Pig, Reasons to Be Pretty is the third in playwright-provocateur Neil LaBute’s conceptual trilogy about society’s ugly obsession with beauty. More than that, though, it’s a continuation of LaBute’s more general fascination with people at their cruellest and people at their weakest – and, especially, his fascination with pitting the groups against each other.
Reasons to Be Pretty begins in the middle of the end of a relationship, with Steph (Julia Grace) and bookish Greg (Andrew Henry) dancing a nasty final tango over the fact that Greg has called Steph’s looks ‘regular’. Kent (the convincingly alpha Stephen James King) and security chick Carly (Lucy Maunder) are the other duo in this match of verbal double tennis, variously testing the limits of Greg’s friendship.
It is despite the fact, or perhaps partly because of the fact, Reasons starts mid-conflict that it takes a long time for the drama to really kick in. For too long – and this is an issue with LaBute’s text fundamentally – it feels the play has few aspirations beyond being a conversation-starter. It’s testament to the abilities of director James Beach and his performers that, early in the second half, Reasons reclaims the audience and retains them in its grip until the end of the show. The dilemmas are genuine and convincingly conveyed by all involved.
Even if it doesn’t leave its mark the way The Shape of Things or Fat Pig did, Reasons still touches those familiar LaButian nerves. Very fine cringe-comedy-drama at Darlo Theatre.
Win a double pass to Reasons to be Pretty on our Competitions page