Often substance is forgotten and covered up in favour of style. What is deep and meaningful can be transformed by over-production to a point where all words drown in a sea of lights, background, and colour. When that happens, what we see is a carefully crafted script washed away and replaced with a spectacle of entertainment.
Luckily in the case of Elena Bolster’s Beast, performed at The White Bear Theatre the play was directed in the way the writer expected it to be. Director Natasha Pryce handles the delicate script with the care it deserves; the minimal set was all that was needed to form a frame for a play of only two characters.
Keiron Jecchinis, playing the part of Egon, took to the role of a tortured and complicated artist well. His representation of how illness can grip and ruin, towards the end of the play, was believable and emotional. Mel Oskar, playing Valie, appeared to have modelled her character on a Bill Sykes’ Nancy and showed a maturity in depicting a brave, independent, and strong Valie. Even with a flash of the ankles at passing ships, Oskar let the vulnerability of her character show through a brave face of necessity.
To direct a sex scene in a small setting, I expect is always a challenge for a director. The merry dance that Pryce invented to interpret the act was sensual enough to convey the message but comfortable enough for the confined space and proximity of the audience.
A quick chat with Bolster and Pryce after the show revealed that the director had delivered what the writer had expected. While Pryce admits that she came up against challenges in creating something aesthetic and engaging to the audience, she did not want to deter too much from the words and content of Bolster’s work.
I for one am glad the performance was kept down to the bare bones. The words of a play are what make it magical for me.
Beast is running at The White Bear until 17th June followed by a two-day run at Upper Grosvenor Gardens on 26th and 27th July 2012.