A hollow cube of fluorescent light hangs suspended in the murky, cavernous space of the Hope Theatre. Inside, a man and woman sit apart, frozen in thought. A figure, clad in white, circles the space and breathes life into the static pair, guiding them first through a romance and then the relationship that ensues. Nude, the latest work from playwright Paul Hewitt, marks the intimate commitment between two people, exploring the moments of joy and excitement as well as the devastating sadness and regret. By focusing on something as universally accessible as human connection, the scenarios displayed are easily relatable and the story is pitted with existential questions and the underlying self destructive nature of humanity.
Imagine Fate personified. Would this glowing goddess painstakingly plan and develop intricate meetings between souls? Or would she pluck them arbitrarily from the crowd and, with a shrug, fling them overhead to see where they land? In Nude, she does both. Stumbling upon two strangers, she sees an opportunity and grabs them both by the shirt collars. The man and woman, both nameless, begin their journey together. After the initial awkwardness, they discover their compatibility and move zealously forward to the point of longstanding monogamy. However, Fate does not appreciate the relationship’s smooth course and personally slots herself between the pair in order to shake things up.
This story is one that we have heard countless times before. Boy meets girl, they fall in love, one of them errs and their love is called in to question. While the three person perspective is quite enchanting, the play still lacks originality and loses its audience towards the end. It is structured fairly traditionally which does it no favours. The first quarter of the piece is filled with sparkling animation and past paced, bubbling dialogue. After that however, a sombre shroud falls over the space and all energy and pace enter slow motion. Of course, this follows the mood of the story’s plot but also makes for a fidgety audience. Hewitt’s poetic script is very impressive. The irregular rhyming, spoken primarily by Roshni Rathore as Fate, has a hypnotic, comforting effect and contributes to the overarching melodious narrative that connects each step of the couple’s respective pathways. Particularly effective is Rathore’s composed delivery. She calmly holds eye contact with each member of the audience and tiptoes elegantly about the space. Her realistic personification of an ethereal figure is equally intriguing. Feigning omniscience, it’s revealed that she actually shares in mankind’s frustration and does not know the meaning of human life.
Overall, Nude is an interesting piece. The most enjoyable and thought provoking aspect lies within Fate’s discovery of and confusion at the contradictory nature of human beings. The three performers connect well with the script and both Edward Nash and Michelle Fahrenheim adapt smoothly from glassy eyed optimism to stony faced sobriety as the story progresses. As will always be the case, an exploration into the human condition is naturally appealing. With some potential reshuffling of this play’s chronology, Nude could be a success from start to finish.
Reviewed by Alex Foott
Photo: Helen Murray
NUDE is playing at the Hope Theatre until 21 May 2016