Review: Beauty is Difficult
“Today you are going to enter the past of my life. Three things are carried by my wounded heart: love, despair, pain!”
The Tango los Mareados frames tonight’s Winter Ball as we swirl past and dip into the lives and loves of Racine’s Phedre, Flaubert’s Emma Bovary, Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina and Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler.
Director Michael Beh’s fascination with each woman’s use and abuse of beauty has led to a competition. Each night, audience members will barrack for a femme fatale; we lodge our vote upon arrival. Each night, the actors decide which woman will die at tango’s end.
The heartBeast ensemble’s development and rehearsal process is to work as a collective, to give a unique operatic texture to each woman’s character and her relationships with men. The dance framework aids the glorious embodiment of character.
The tango and waltz juxtapose control and independence, rebellion and equality. Using the length of the hall as the ballroom permits manipulation of perspective, time, intimacy and physicality.
Trinity Hall was transformed easily into a grand ballroom with rich red curtains and chairs for the dancers against the walls. Our privileged position at one end of the ballroom is to be the mirror – we are often so addressed – for the confidences we hear from the women and their partners.
Our hostess is Danni (Judith Turnbull), inspired by Mrs Danvers from du Maurier’s Rebecca. While we are never privy to her story, Danni goads and guides each woman to replay her memories. Moments of greatest pain are paralleled by Danni enacting the same scene with a doll. Beauty is voodoo.
Adrienne Costello embodies Phedre’s growing obsession for her step-son whose beauty is a daily reminder of her absent husband. Consumed by loneliness and desire, Phedre mistakes possession for passion. Beauty poisons the eye of the beholder.
Emma Bovary (Karen Dinsdale), “here for purchase like a fine filly”, asks doe-eyed “does the mirror reveal my soul?” Beauty has a lusty appetite as it roams the French countryside.
The two-faced mirror finally shatters in tragedy for Anna Karenina (Anna O’Hara). Beauty is horse-whipped into class submission.
Sherri Smith’s Hedda Gabler fights for attention but fails to live beyond her fears. Beauty is exquisite madness with a gun.
The men who partner the women in the daily tango of lovers and husbands are played with verve and control by Hamish Nicholson (notably Phedre’s step-son), Jason Ward Kennedy and Steve Pearton.
Which beauty dies? Come to the ball, the answer is different each night.
heartBeast – vicious theatre ensemble 2012
Trinity Hall, Corner Church and Brookes Street, Fortitude Valley
Duration: 1 hr 30 min (no interval)
Season: 6 – 28 July
Director/Design/Sound: Michael Beh
Lighting Design: Jason Harding
Costume Design: Michael Beh, Jan Mandrusiak
Cast: Adrienne Costello, Karen Dinsdale, Anna O’Hara, Sherri Smith, Judith Turnbull, Jason Ward Kennedy, Hamish Nicholson, Steve Pearton