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REASONS TO BE PRETTY

by Neil LaBute

RESOURCE PACK
Welcome to the Almeida Theatres
Introduction production of Reasons To Be Pretty.
When Greg is overheard admitting that his girlfriend Steph
is no beauty, but that he wouldn't change her for the world,
a chain of events begins that sees his world and his
relationships completely reshaped. He is confused and
cant see what hes done wrong, but Steph is devastated:
she doesnt want to be with a man who doesnt think shes
beautiful, whatever she may think of herself. Meanwhile,
Greg's best friend Kent alternates between boasting about
how gorgeous his wife, Carly, is and chasing after a hot
new colleague.

Reasons To Be Pretty is the final part of Neil LaBute's trilogy


about society's obsession with looks following The Shape of
Things, which received its World premiere at the Almeida in
2001 and Fat Pig, which was a West End hit in 2008.
Reasons To Be Pretty makes for a powerful finale to this
body of LaButes work, taking a striking story about a
breakdown in personal relationships and fuelling it with the
potent issue of our very identity that pervades society as a
Billie Piper whole.
Photo: Keith Pattison
Reasons To Be Pretty examines our perception of beauty and
asks whether it is as much of a curse to be conventionally
attractive as it is to be considered ugly. It asks whether
beauty itself is important, or if its import is in the
judgment itself. In a world where appearances are used as
benchmarks of achievement or at the very least the
foundation of a judgment about who or what another
person is, Reasons To Be Pretty questions the very
judgments we make. It is a play as much about hearsay
and misunderstanding as it is about trust and love - the
elements that go into achieving that trust and love, the
foundations of human relationships.

We look forward to welcoming you to the Almeida Theatre


and hope that Reasons To Be Pretty will entertain, challenge
and inspire you and your students to experience further the
power of live theatre.

Charlie Payne
Natalie Mitchell, EJ Trivett
Almeida Projects

For more information about Almeida Projects and our recent work please visit
almeida.co.uk/education

1 Resource Pack: Reasons To Be Pretty


Contents
HOW TO USE THIS RESOURCE PACK LEARNING AREAS
This Almeida Projects Resource Pack aims to This Resource Pack is not curriculum-specific
provide an insight into our process of taking the but may be of particular use in the following
production from research stage to performance. learning areas:
We hope you will use it to help you in your own
Drama or Theatre Studies
investigations into the play both before and
English Literature
after your visit to the Almeida Theatre.
This Resource Pack intends to supplement
The pack is divided into four sections: the first the academic study of by providing context-
contains detailed information on the plot and specific information about the Almeida
characters to refresh your memory of the play in Theatres production of the play, covering the
the classroom. The second contains following areas:
production-specific articles on the creative
Staging and world of the play
process, with exclusive input from the artistic
Production-specific research and context
team. The third section provides context by
Rehearsal process
covering background material and themes from
the play. The final section contains suggestions This pack will also contains the exercises
of practical exercises for drama teachers to use, included in Almeida Projects Introductory
to enable students to explore the play in further Workshop for Reasons To Be Pretty for
depth, in the classroom and beyond. independent use in the classroom and beyond.

Production Credits 3
Production Synopsis 4
Characters 5
Plot Summary 7
Design 20
Interview with Designer 22

Neil LaBute 28
LaBute on Reasons To Be Pretty 30
Neil LaBute Interview 32
In the Rehearsal Room 36

Beauty 43
The Golden Ratio 45
Scopophilia and The Gaze 46

Practical Exercises 47
Script Extracts 50

Almeida Projects 56

Resource Pack: Reasons To Be Pretty 2


Reasons To Be Pretty
Production Credits by Neil LaBute
Kent Kieran Bew
Steph Sin Brooke
Greg Tom Burke
Carly Billie Piper

Director Michael Attenborough


Design Soutra Gilmour
Lighting Mark Henderson
Sound Fergus OHare
Casting Suzanne Crowley and
Gilly Poole
Dialect Penny Dyer
Fight Director Terry King
Assistant Director Natasha Nixon

Production Manager James Crout


Company Stage Manager Laura Draper
Deputy Stage Manager Helen Smith
Assistant Stage Manager Annique Reynolds
Costume Supervisor Fizz Jones
Wardrobe Supervisor Eleanor Dolan
Wardrobe Deputy Charlie Damigos
Chief Technician Jason Wescombe
Lighting Technician Robin Fisher
Sound Technician Howard Wood
Theatre Technician Adriano Agostino
Stage Crew Jack Harding and
Tony Forrester
Production Carpenter Gruff Carro
Set built by Miraculous Engineering
Set painted by Charlotte Gainey and
Natasha Shepherd
Stage Management Work Liz Carr
Placement

ALMEIDA THEATRE
Artistic Director Michael Attenborough
Executive Director Julia Potts
Artistic Associate Jenny Worton

ALMEIDA PROJECTS
Director of Projects Samantha Lane
Director of Projects EJ Trivett
(maternity cover)
Projects Co-ordinator Natalie Mitchell
Projects Administrator Charlie Payne
Projects Admin Assistant Sarah Tarry

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Production Synopsis
Production Synopsis
Scene 1
Steph and Gregs bedroom. They argue about Greg calling Stephs face regular, reported to Steph
via Carly; she is hurt and angry. Steph walks out on Greg.

Scene 2
Break room at the workplace of Greg, Kent and Carly, a warehouse packing food. Greg tells Kent
about his argument with Steph. Greg confronts Carly about telling Steph what she overheard.

Scene 3
Caf in a shopping mall. Greg and Steph are meeting for the first time since she left him. Steph
reads out a long letter to Greg, in which she outlines all his physical flaws.

Scene 4
Break room at work. Carly and Kent flirt. Kent tells Greg about his infidelity with the new girl, Crystal.

Interval
Scene 5
The lobby of a restaurant. Greg bumps into Steph. Both are meeting people. They probe whether
each other is on a date. Steph slaps Greg.

Scene 6
Break room at work. Carly and Greg talk about Kent. Carly admits she is pregnant and suspects Kent
of having an affair.

Scene 7
Baseball field. Greg tells Kent he will no longer cover for his infidelity to Carly. They argue violently
and Greg leaves, refusing the play in the important ball game.

Scene 8
Break room at work. Greg tells Carly to go home to surprise Kent on his day off. Steph comes to tell
Greg she is engaged to her new boyfriend.

NB: The printed text contains four monologues, one by each of the characters that occur as follows.
These have been cut from this production of Reasons To Be Pretty, but are included in the plot
summary for reference.

STEPH (between Scenes 2 & 3): She tells us that she is hurt, but she accepts who she is as a person.

KENT (between Scenes 4 & 5): He tells us about the downside to having an attractive wife. He shows
little respect for her inner beauty or person.

CARLY (between Scenes 6 & 7): She tells us about the disadvantages of being attractive, and knowing
she is judged only on her looks.

GREG (after Scene 8): He tells us what he has learned from the experience with Steph. He has gone
back to college and feels he knows how to treat women better.

A detailed plot summary follows.

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Characters GREG
Greg works at a factory packing food, where he
predominantly works the long night shift. He is
friends with colleague Kent, and the two of them
spend their breaks together, although the two men
are very different. Greg is overheard by Carly
defending his girlfriend Steph, who he believes is no
major beauty but that is not important in his love for
her. The misinterpretation causes Steph to leave
him. Greg has high standards, but a tendency to drift
along. He loves reading American classic literature
and tries to better himself. In reality, he knows he
has no real qualifications and that his life is not
quite as he imagined it would be. He tends to step
back and remain passive in conflict situations, which
is often interpreted as apathy or nonchalance. Greg
does not like to fight.

...the honest thing about this is, I think Im a better man now, after
Stephanie. I really do. Not, like, awesome or anything, but at least
good, maybe.
Greg

STEPH
Steph is Gregs girlfriend at the start of the play, but
the opening scene sees them break up after Greg is
overheard calling Stephs appearance regular. Steph
is not unattractive, but her looks are not what is
important to her. She knows she may not be the
most clever of people, and has no great
qualifications, but she is happy with her lot and
content within herself. However, she cannot bear to
be with someone who does not find her attractive, as
it gives her an insecurity complex. Steph works in a
local beauty salon. She is good friends with Carly but
not close to Kent. Steph has a tendency to over-react
and can be quite argumentative, often pushing a
point so far as to create conflict.

I'm saying, even if I was not cute, unattractive by world standards,


don't I wanna be with someone who finds me beautiful?
Steph

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Characters
KENT
Kent is Gregs best friend. He is a chauvinist and
values women predominantly on their physical
appearance. He is often derogatory when talking
about women. He lives with Carly, and he finds
having a beautiful girlfriend can make him worry
about keeping her, as other people are looking at her
too. However he still looks at other women and is
unfaithful. He does not think highly of Carlys mind,
but her looks are very important to him. He is a bully
and tends to be arrogant and unkind. He is no
intellectual and criticises Greg for wanting to better
himself through reading; he thinks Greg thinks he is
better than him because of this. He has recently
been in trouble at work and wants to work more to
earn more money.

Ive got a job in some warehouse and a limited number of skills and
a Chevrolet that Id like to take a blow torch to... thats my life in
the foreseeable future.
Kent

CARLY
Carly is Kents girlfriend. She is an attractive woman
and she receives a lot of attention from men, which
can make her feel uncomfortable. She believes that
being beautiful can be difficult for a woman. She
works as a security guard for the factory where Greg
and Kent also work. She knows she is attractive to
men and she can also be manipulative of people.
She is not a very intuitive person, or academically
minded, and can come across as insensitive towards
other peoples feelings. She stirs up trouble (often
inadvertently) between Kent and Greg. It is Carly that
tells Steph about overhearing Greg say that she is
not beautiful. Greg thinks she is a trouble maker and
the two of them have never particularly got on well.

I'm very attractive. I am. I've always been that way but it's no great
big deal to me--if anything, it's worked against me for most of my
life.
Carly

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Plot Summary

Sin Brooke and Tom Burke


Photo: Keith Pattison

Scene 1
The play opens in the midst of a blazing argument between Greg and Steph, in their bedroom. Steph
is confronting Greg about a conversation he had about her with his friend Kent. This conversation
between Greg and Kent had been overheard by Kents girlfriend, Carly, who in turn reported what she
heard to Steph. Greg is trying in vain to defend himself, but Steph is furious and presses him further,
accusing him of lying, back-pedalling and concealing the truth of what he said about her: in short, she
accuses him of calling her ugly. He denies saying the word ugly itself. He tries to get out of the
argument, wanting to go to bed, but Steph is relentless. She will be late into work, if it means that
they get to finish the argument.

Greg is confused and cant quite see why Steph is so angry, he cannot see what hes done wrong. He
tries to explain to Steph how he saw his conversation with Kent. He also expresses his dislike of Carly,
who he feels acts like a cop all the time, interfering. Everything Greg says winds Steph up more, and
he is unable to placate her rage he tries to quiet her down, fearing the neighbours hearing their
argument. Greg finally recounts his version of events: Kent was telling him about a new girl at work
that he thought was very attractive, and Greg agreed that she was pretty. Steph asks him if he
compared her to the attractive girl; Greg denies this. He instead said that whilst Steph may have a
regular face, he wouldnt trade her for a million dollars. Gregs story confirms what Carly told her.
She is hurt and angry that he thinks she is just regular, whereas e thinks of another woman as
beautiful. Greg insists he meant what he said as a compliment, but unfortunately this is not how
Steph sees it. Incensed, she throws an ashtray across the room at him, and storm out. Greg is left
alone, shell-shocked.

Scene 2
At work, Greg and Kent are sat in the break room of their workplace, finishing their lunch. They are
on the nightshift and it is just after midnight; they are both tired. Greg is explaining to Kent what
happened the previous evening, his argument with Steph.

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Kent begins to criticise Greg for eating an energy bar, and

Plot Summary
tells him to think more about his body if he wants to look
good if he gets fat, Kent says, it wont help his chances
with winning Steph back. Kent talks about the attractive
new girl, commenting on her looks. Kent then says he is
waiting for Carly, whos doing a security round. Greg tells
Kent that Carly annoys him he feels that she screwed
him over by telling Steph what she overheard. Greg
asserts strongly that hed never go behind Carlys back in
that way. Kent leaves for the toilet and Greg waits for
Carly to arrive. Alone, Greg clears up Kents litter.

Carly enters, wearing her full security uniform. She stops


short when she see Greg. Greg explains that Kent is in
the toilet. Carly sits down to eat, and Greg takes out a
book and begins to read. Carly watches him and Greg
tells her hes reading a book by Poe. Carly doesnt know
who that is. Greg tells her the book is quite dark, but she
takes him literally, and comments that it is night. Greg
tries to explain but gives up. The atmosphere between
the two of them is tense.

Greg approaches Carly, and confronts her about her


talking to Steph. Carly denies doing anything wrong; she
tells him that Steph has called her, that morning,
because she wanted a friend to talk to. Steph said many
Kieran Bew things about Greg, and she was upset. She reveals that
Photo: Keith Pattison Steph had also handed in her notice from her job. Carly
thinks Steph has every right to be upset with Greg,
because of the things he said about her. Greg defends
himself strongly, insisting that what he said about Steph
was a loving thing. He tells Carly not to look so
triumphant, he admitted that he was sorry and
apologised to Steph, but that she didnt listen. Greg
begins to get angry with Carly, as he thinks more is going
on than she is revealing it dawns on him that Steph
has left him completely and is not coming home. Greg
goes to grab Carly, but she shakes him off; then they
Why'd you say it?! Right back both freeze as Kent walks back in the room.
at you, ok? Why would you ever
say a thing like that about Kent asks what is going on, and tells Greg to back off
from Carly he has done enough damage already. Greg
someone... and particularly a and Kent need to get back to work, but before they do,
person you supposedly love. Kent and Carly have a kiss and cuddle; Greg is forced to
(BEAT) I'm sorry but nobody, watch, uncomfortably. Carly leaves.
no-body, even the most clueless
Kent comments on Carlys bottom, he thinks it is
of guys, is gonna make that amazing. Greg agrees it is nice, but tells Kent not to be
kind of mistake. You were being such a dick about it. Greg still thinks Carly has a bad
honest.. attitude; Kent says this isnt important, so long as she
looks good. Greg apologises for things getting heated
Carly with Carly earlier. Kent says he is 100% behind Greg; he
Scene 2 says he only put up a show of telling Greg to back off to
give Carly the impression he was on her side. Kent
actually thinks both Carly and Steph are behaving

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stupidly, but hes not willing to fall out with Carly, so that
Plot Summary hed have to cater for himself without her doing it. Kent pulls
out a Readers Digest and Greg criticises his low quality
choice of reading material its essentially a TV guide, not a
book. A loud buzzer rings calling both men back to work.

Stephs Monologue
I'm not this person who gets
Steph talks about how she feels about what has happened
off on looks or the more, like, with Greg. He has hurt her, because she believes he does not
physical side of men even, like her face. She accepts that she may not be a traditional
but when it's the other way beauty but that she is happy with how she looks. But she
does not want to be with a man who thinks she is
around...shit, you know? It unpleasant to look at or even worse, sits on the fence
totally hurts. about her appearance. Whilst Steph says she does not find
looks in men particularly important, but when she is in the
Steph situation where shes being judged, it feels horrible. It makes
Stephs Monologue her feel physically sick to think of her body being judged by
Greg. She rejects the notion that Greg meant what he said
about her to Kent as a compliment. She admits that maybe
she does not have that much going for her, as shes not the
most intelligent or beautiful person; but she is happy with
who she is and she knows she has to protect that.

Scene 3
At a caf in the shopping mall, Greg sits waiting at a table,
checking his watch. There is a bunch of flowers on the table.
After a moment, his mobile phone rings. It is Steph, as she
is on her way to meet him.

Steph arrives and they greet each other awkwardly. Greg


gives Steph the flowers and she takes them. Steph tells Greg
But come on, I didnt... she needs to come to their apartment to remove the last of
Stephanie, lets be serious her things, and she wants him to be out when she does this.
here. Alright? Lets. (BEAT) I She is currently staying with her parents. Greg is calm and
said one little thing. A stupid accepts this, offering to stay out of the way. He asks Steph
how things came to this point. She replies simply that he
thing, I know, I agree with said some unpleasant things, and their splitting up is the
that, but... its... consequence. She is not going to forget about what he said
or change her mind about this. Greg is very confused by the
Greg whole situation. Steph tells him that the situation has
Scene 3 opened her mind to a lot of the faults with her life, a number
of things she is unhappy with. She does not want to talk
about this further with Greg.

Greg suggests they go for lunch, but Steph turns the offer
down. Steph becomes quite angry, rounding on Greg for
thinking that everything is suddenly ok. Greg insists he really
cares about her, believes she still cares about him and he
finds all the situation baffling. Steph tells him to stop trying
to put words in her mouth. She very clearly spells out that
she wants Greg to leave her completely alone, to let her start
again in a new relationship and move on. It is completely
over between them. Steph begins to cry; Greg tries to move
closer to comfort her but she pushes him away.

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Plot Summary
Tom Burke and Sin Brooke
Photo: Keith Pattison Steph recover her composure a little and asks to borrow
Gregs keys to their flat as she has left hers at home. She
removes the key from the keyring and promises to leave it
under their doormat. She tells him she will also pick up her
car while she is at the flat, so they do not have to meet again.
Greg is making a good attempt at staying cool, which angers
Steph further as she feels he is being very casual about it all.
Greg tells her he does not know what he can do, or how he
should act. He just wants her back. He makes a comment
about remembering cuddling her from behind them in bed
and she interprets this as an insulting way, that he does not
I've never thought you had a want to look at her face. He cannot say anything that placates
great body, it's ok, but her mood. She throws his keys back at him, hitting him hard.
nothing really special and I Angered and hurt, he tells Steph to get her stupid face out
of there. She is furious and takes this as confirmation that he
hate how you walk around - has always hated her; she does not see it as a light matter.
not just at home but outside
during the summer or at the She takes out of her purse a letter she has written to Greg,
gym; a lot, anyway - like you that she reads out, loudly, whilst a small crowd gather at the
spectacle. In the letter, she pulls apart his physical
are super cute or something, appearance, and criticises his looks, their sex life and many of
like you have all these the physical aspects of their relationship. She says she never
muscles and a nice stomach thought he had a great body and how some of his manners
annoy him. The letter goes into great detail about his
or whatever, you don't.
shortcomings physically, and finishes with her feeling that he
does not listen to her about any of this. Greg is dumbstruck,
Steph
and asks if she genuinely means all of that. She says she
Stephs Monologue
means it all, but it didnt matter in their relationship because
to her, love is blind she could feel all that and still love him.

Greg is in denial that their relationship is completely over,


that this is happening to them. He tells Steph he has always
liked her face it is really cute, adorable. Steph rejects the

Resource Pack: Reasons To Be Pretty 10


compliment its too late. She tells him she made
Plot Summary everything up in the letter to Greg, but it hurts because he
meant truly what he said about her. She screws up the
letter and throws it on the floor. As she leaves, she tells
Greg she is taking the television, which she bought with
her own money anyway. Greg, left alone, picks up the
crumpled letter from the floor and reads it.

Scene 4
At work, in the break room, Carly and Kent are sat at a
table, eating. Carly watches as Kent keeps checking the
time. He tells Carly that he has a lot of work to do tonight
and he wants to give it his best shot as he is trying to
get more overtime, he wants to be seen to be a good
worker. He remarks that Carly likes the extra money. Carly
retorts that everybody likes money. Kent says that is not
true and Carly asks him to name one person who does not
like money, and presses him to get to the point. Kent is
trying to make the point that his working hard and well
Billie Piper means they have more money to buy more things. Kent
Photo: Keith Pattison teases Carly and she tells him he is like a child; she
becomes quite angry with his immature attitude. She
threatens to go back to her station so she doesnt have to
see him. Kent placates her his boss Rich has been
keeping an eye on him lately and that is why he is
watching the clock, to avoid any trouble; he would never
pick work over Carly. Carly is duly placated, and they kiss
and cuddle.

Greg enters and they stop. Carly leaves instantly, without a


word to Greg. Alone together, Kent tells Greg that Carly is
angry with Greg because of loyalty to Steph, who it is
revealed has moved away for a while. Greg takes out a
book and begins to read; Kent asks him about it. Greg
tells Kent that its Hawthorne some early American
One day they're gonna save Gothic literature. Kent grabs the book and inspects it.
a little time and just stick Kent comments on Carlys actions, and the men console
themselves on the unfathomable: women. Greg says he
that in the dictionary. Just is fed up with women. He reveals that he has got his car
the word, no definition back from Steph; Kent asks if she had caused it any
necessary, and any guy who damage he would expect that she might do something
stumbles across it'll just roll like that after how she left Greg.
his eyes and know what the Kent continues to check the time, and is clearly waiting for
hell it means. (BEAT) something; he is reluctant to reveal to Greg what this is.
Women. They discuss a company baseball game they are both
playing in, but Greg is distracted by Kents anxiety. He
Greg presses Kent to reveal what he is waiting for, as he is
Scene 4 clearly very on edge. Finally, Kent reveals that he is waiting
for Crystal, the attractive new woman he has mentioned in
previous scenes. He shows Greg a picture of her on his
mobile phone, and reveals that he has been seeing her for
over a month. He asked her out for a drink after she came
to one of their baseball games. Greg is unimpressed and
asks if Crystal knows about Carly. Kent tells him that its all

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Plot Summary
Kieran Bew and Tom Burke square with Crystal that she likes the idea of competition.
Photo: Keith Pattison
Kent comments on Crystals age 23, and says her looks are
only starting to fade a little, but she is young and has great
skin. Greg chastises Kent for his attitude. He makes to leave.
Kent swears him to silence, and Greg agrees, though his
attitude towards the whole situation is aloof and
unenthusiastic. He tells Kent to be careful, that he knows it is
none of his business, as he has a lot of his own issues to deal
with. Kent agrees that Greg indeed has a lot of problems at
the moment and tells him everything is fine between him and
Carly. In fact, his affair with Crystal is making things even
better between them. He admires Crystals knockout looks, her
It's interesting, having a beautiful face. Greg tries to leave to get back to work. Kent
wife who looks the way mine presses on admiring Crystals physical appearance. Greg
remains evasive. Once again, before he leaves, Kent swears
does. Attractive, I'm saying.
Greg to keep his affair with Crystal secret.
It really is. It's probably not
what you'd think it'd be, all Alone, Greg tries to read, but he cannot concentrate.
great and wonderful at every
turn of the road; it has it's Kents Monologue
Kent talks about the issues with having an attractive wife its
disadvantages, believe you not always as good as you might think, he says. Whilst he can
me. enjoy her appearance, he also feels the pressure to keep her
because all these other men will be having the same fantasy
Kent about her. He talks about his humiliation of having her work in
Kents Monologue the same place, as a security guard. She got the job, he
admits, partly because of her looks, as it was felt she gives a
good first impression of the company to visitors. Kent actually
thinks Carlys job is a bit laughable and simple. He does not
believe she could protect them or ensure their security, if there
was a serious problem she just carries a set of keys and a
flashlight. The fact that they work in the same place also
bothers Kent because he feels he has to constantly watch

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Plot Summary

Tom Burke and Sin Brooke


Photo: Keith Pattison

himself, and who hes talking to. He bemoans the lot life has given him he has a menial job in a
warehouse, a limited number of skills and he does not see much changing in his future. But hes
optimistic, and the events of late (implying his affair with Crystal), have brought some excitement to
his life, and he is going to see what benefit he can make of it.

Scene 5
At a restaurant, in the lobby. Greg stands, waiting, checking his watch a couple of times. After a
moment, Steph enters, walking fast. They see each other and stop cold. After a brief silence they greet
each other awkwardly they are at the restaurant separately and are very surprised to see each other.
They clumsily try to establish why the other person is there, fishing to see if either is on a date. Steph
tells Greg she is here with someone, but not anyone he knows; she remains cryptic. Greg in turn tells
her he is meeting people from work, not a girl. Steph suggests she is meeting a man, but it is just
dinner. They both remark on how they like the restaurant, and wonder why they did not come here
when they were a couple. They reminisce on some of the places they used to go to together.

There is a brief and awkward pause, where neither of them are sure what to say next. Steph says she
should probably go back, as she was only visiting the bathroom, and doesnt want to give a bad first
impression. Greg is holding back, but it is clear he is uneasy with the situation of Steph being here on
a date with another man. Steph tries to get him to admit as much but instead he wishes her well and
hopes she has a good time. Steph bats this away as ungenuine, criticising Greg for not being able to
wish her well. Greg tells her he cannot find the right words, he is not deliberately being abstruse.
Steph tells him she is trying to move on after being hurt; she cannot understand why Greg finds it
impossible to be happy for her. Greg feels it is too early, as he is still hurting and did not want their
relationship to end. He tells Steph to go back to her date and he can continue to wait for his friends.
Steph insults him. She can see him judging her appearance and doesnt like it. Greg wonders why she
wants such approval over her looks. Greg says she looks beautiful tonight, but she did not dress like
that when they were together, so it is an insult that she is dressed up so specially for tonight, whereas
he is wearing his usual attire.

Led on by this, Steph is suspicious and Greg admits that he too may be on a date; he is being
introduced to a new girl by some friends. Steph too, now that the upper hand is not all hers, is evasive

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and cool. Suddenly, she reaches across and slaps Greg

Plot Summary
hard across the face. Then she glances around, feeling a
bit ashamed. She apologises to Greg and tries to look at
where she slapped him, but he pushes her away. Greg
becomes angry and tells Steph she will realise what she
had with him when her next relationship goes wrong and
someone else treats her badly she will hopefully realise
that what Greg has supposedly done was not bad. Greg
says that when his friends arrive they will go somewhere
else, for Stephs sake and his own. He doesnt want any
more problems between them and their dates tonight.
They part amicably Steph wishes him a good evening
and Greg tells Steph she looks attractive in her dress. She
smiles as she leaves, and he watches her go.

Scene 6
At work, Carly is sitting at a table eating her lunch when
Greg walks in. He has his lunch in one hand and a book in
the other, with a pair of goggles on his head tonight. As he
sees Carly he stops cold. He turns around about to leave
but Carly calls his name. They greet each other coolly. She
Billie Piper and Tom Burke
Photo: Keith Pattison
asks what he is reading; he tells her it is a book by Swift.
He asks how she is, and she tells him she is tired from her
long night shift but otherwise fine. Greg tells her she will
get used to the routine. Greg asks after Kent, as he is not
in work tonight; Greg reveals that he has not seen Kent
very much recently. Carly tells him that Kent has moved
over to working days; it is not as much money but he
hoped to pick up more overtime this way. Greg is
surprised that Kent did not tell him this.

Greg prepares to leave, but Carly invites him to sit with


her. He insists he is very busy but Carly reveals she wants
to talk to him. Greg sits and takes out his lunch; he says
he is terrible at making it himself as Steph always used
to do this for him. Carly asks if he has seen Steph recently.
I'm trying to look pretty,
He tells Carly about their two encounters, first at the caf
alright?! I'm trying to make where she delivered her diatribe against him, and second
myself feel better because my at the restaurant where she slapped him. Carly is unsure
former boyfriend - this guy that what to say but then bursts out laughing. Greg feels
humiliated. Carly compliments Gregs sense of humour
I gave a whole lot of my heart she has always found him funny. Greg wonders at this
to - couldn't find me attractive compliment Carly has not said three kind words to him
and now Im left wondering since Steph left him, but now she is being very friendly.
what's wrong with me. Why I
Carly wants to ask Greg something about Kent. Greg is a
was so unappealing to him... little uneasy. She reveals to Greg that she is three months
pregnant. She and Kent are very happy about this. She
Steph feels many different things at the moment but she does
Scene 5 not, somehow, feel safe. Greg asks her why, but Carly
turns the question back at him. Greg suspects Carly does
not trust Kent, and asks her about this. Carly admits that a
few little things have made her uneasy: Kents change of
routine and how he is often out of their house when she
calls him although he says he is sleeping, the

Resource Pack: Reasons To Be Pretty 14


neighbours have told her that his car is sometimes away. She
Plot Summary has real doubts. Greg tells her not to worry about Kent, that
it is probably nothing to be concerned about. Carly tells him
to look her in the eye and say that he knows nothing is
wrong, that Kent is not seeing another woman. Greg feels he
has been put in a no-win situation; Kent is his friend, and he
does not know everything that is going on when they are not
together, nor does he know the inner workings of his friends
mind. Carly cannot ask him about what Kent is thinking,
because he is ignorant here.

Carly speculates: if she was to find some real evidence of


Kents infidelity, such as a receipt, what should she do about
I don't know why God had
it? It is important to her because she is carrying their baby.
to make it so, like... hard to She asks Greg what he would do in that situation. Greg
trust you guys. But he did. replies that he would ask outright for the truth, and be
And it sucks... prepared to hear it. Greg is very uncomfortable and tries to
lighten the subject. Greg congratulates her on the baby, and
Carly makes to leave. He knows Steph will be really pleased, and
Scene 6 Carly confirms that she already knows.

As Greg leaves, Carly again stops him cold, and asks him
directly for the truth about Kent. She has found a receipt
from a restaurant. Greg tells her that he was there with Kent
that night, the same night he bumped into Steph at the
restaurant. They were there with friends of theirs from the
day shift who they do not see often they were all men,
eating together after the ball game. Carly wonders if Kent
would say the same thing if she called him now. She
suddenly bursts into tears, but then falls into laughter. She
apologises to Greg for her suspicions and her erratic
mood. The scene ends with Carly wondering why God made
it so hard for women to trust men.

Carlys Monologue
Carly talks about being an attractive woman, and the difficulty
Listen, Im not saying I that can bring. She believes it has worked against her for
didnt get lucky in many most of her life. She recounts an example of being followed
around a supermarket by a man, who tried to talk to her and
ways, I do get that, I do, I then followed her to her car, and then all the way back to her
just want folks to home. She found it upsetting and frightening, and it made
know that beauty comes her physically sick. She says this happens a lot. And she
with a price, just like ugly knows it is not because she is a clever or has a great
personality: it is purely because of what she looks like, her
does. face. Carly understands that people will think she is lucky for
having a beautiful face, but she acknowledges that beauty
Carly comes with a price, just like ugliness does. She reveals that
Carlys Monologue she has cried herself to sleep because of who she is, just as
someone who is not attractive may have done. These
thoughts occupy her mind a lot when she is at work, when
on a very long shift as she has time on her hands to think.

Scene 7
At the baseball field, Kent is dressed for practice and is
warming up with some stretches. After a moment, Greg

15 Resource Pack: Reasons To Be Pretty


Plot Summary
Tom Burke and Kieran Bew
Photo: Keith Pattison

enters and begins a half-hearted warm-up. Greg asks Kent about his new working hours, and wonders
why Kent didnt tell him before. Kent dismisses this it is not like they are in a relationship. He
changes the subject, saying how much he is looking forward to the ball game its an important
playoff. Greg asks Kent if he is happy, about Carlys pregnancy. Kent remarks thats shes getting a bit
tubby, though he will put up with it for now, so long as she hits the gym and gets back in shape
straight away after the baby is born. He says that Carly knows this too she knows that her looks are
all shes got going for her. He compares beautiful women to athletes. Greg changes the subject to ask
if they have thought of any names for the baby. Kent reveals that the baby is a fucking girl.

Kent thanks Greg for covering to Carly about Crystal, as it has given him the chance to carry on seeing
her. He is enjoying the thrill of their affair. Greg is reticent and tells Kent that he does not think he can
cover for him any more. He asks Kent not to ask him to do this again its not that he cannot, but
that he will not. He felt really awful when he lied to Carly and he does not want to be that kind of
man. Kent twists the situation to implicate Greg as already in the thick of it, as he has already lied
once to Carly, and he claims Greg helped his affair with Crystal happen in the first place, by
encouraging Kent to go for it. Greg denies this responsibility, and asks Kent to make his own
judgments on his own conduct. Kent tells Greg not to judge him, even though Greg denies doing this.
Greg tells Kent to keep his problems with Crystal and Carly to himself he does not want to know
about them.

Kent becomes angry with Greg and turns on him. They argue and there is a stand-off. Greg sizes Kent
up but backs off. He is not scared, but does not want to fight, and is man enough to walk away from
it, although Kent goads him on. He accuses Greg of being a faggot and a coward. Greg is fed up
with putting up with Kents attitude towards him a decade is about his limit. Kent thinks Greg has
not got the courage to do anything about this, as he is so desperate to be liked. He accuses Greg of
thinking himself better than Kent because he reads clever books. The men fight, Kent grabbing Greg
and pushing him to the ground. Kent moves to punch Greg but eventually just pushes him away. He
tells Greg he does not care what he thinks. Greg is amazed that Kent would round on him, like a big
bully. Kent starts insulting Steph, calling her ugly he never understood what Greg saw in her. Greg
warns him to stop, but Kent continues. Greg turns on Kent, and throws his glove at him. He takes his
baseball hit off and walks away from the game, leaving the side a man down and at a disadvantage.

Resource Pack: Reasons To Be Pretty 16


Plot Summary

Kieran Bew and Tom Burke


Photo: Keith Pattison

Kent is outraged and tries to persuade him to stay their argument stays off the field. Suddenly Greg
lashes out at Kent, throwing a number of punches that take Kent by surprise, and he falls to the
ground. Greg gathers up his kit and leaves Kent in the thick of a violent tantrum.

Scene 8
At work, Carly is sitting in the break room, eating by herself. Her pregnancy is showing a little by now.
She gets up to leave, as Greg enters with his book. He smiles at Carly and the have a short hug as they
greet each other. Greg asks how she is feeling. She telly him she is feeling the weight of the pregnancy,
and feels like the size of a cow, but otherwise OK. Carly asks after Gregs black eye; he tells her it was
caused by an accident. As Carly leaves, Greg tells her she is the most beautiful cow out there, and asks
her not to forget it; Carly thanks him.

After a pause, Greg asks Carly if she has any sick time built up to use. He suggests telling her
supervisor that she is feeling unwell, and go home to surprise Kent. He suggest doing it tonight, right
now. Carly studies him curiously, and then agrees. She leaves.

Alone, Greg sits down with his book and begins to read. After a moment, Steph appears. She is
dressed up smartly. She greets Greg and he tells her she has just missed Carly. Steph asks about what
Greg is reading its Rip Van Winkle by Washington Irving. She reveals that she has come to see Greg,
not Carly. Greg looks at her but she cannot meet his eye; she asks him not to stare at her. Greg replies
that he likes looking at her, and always did. Steph does not believe this and Greg tells her that is just
her interpretation and not true at all.

Steph starts to explain why she came to see Greg, and he takes her hand he has seen that she is
wearing an engagement ring. Steph is very happy with her fianc, and Greg says he is happy for her.
Steph reveals that he is called Tim and works with computers. Greg tells Steph he is thinking about
going back to school to get a degree, as he doesnt want to work at the factory all his life. A loud
buzzer calls Greg back to work.

17 Resource Pack: Reasons To Be Pretty


Plot Summary
Greg reaches over to Steph and touches her
engagement ring. Steph tells him they have not set a
date for the wedding yet. Greg hopes he will be invited.
They ask each other how they are, in a friendly way.
Greg tells her that he is no longer playing baseball with
the team, and that he thinks he may have ruined Carlys Carly knows thats all
life by sending her home to surprise Kent. Steph thinks shes got going so shes
that is not the case it will be something a long time
coming and she will benefit from it in the long term;
gonna take care of it. Her
Steph thinks Carly will be fine because she is a strong looks. Dude, beautiful
person. Greg agrees, he has come to realise this too. women are like athletes:
couple good years and
Greg compliments Stephs appearance again and she
thanks him. She tells him that it was hard to come to then the knees go.
see him, to tell him about her engagement, but Greg
was in her head the minute Tim proposed to her. She Kent
was so used to once being married to Greg, and maybe Scene 8
part of her is still hoping that Greg would sweep her off
her feet to win her back. Greg reiterates that the whole
drama of their relationship break up was caused by
pure misunderstanding. That does not matter, replies
Steph, because she feels breaking up was the right
thing to do anyway. The incident and argument that
ensued caused her to realise that their relationship was
far from perfect, and would not have worked in the long
term. Greg agrees, and although he loved her, believes
they were drifting along. He is now searching for
something different, a real change in his life. They agree
on this.

Greg tells Steph that their relationship was special, and


it was never about physical appearance for him. Steph
thanks him for this, but now she feels very special It wasnt your face; I man,
because she has a fianc who lights up whenever he just so you know. I wasnt
looks at her and makes her feel beautiful. Greg is happy ever this, like, ass man
for her, genuinely. As Steph leaves, they share a tender
moment, where they nearly kiss. Steph begins to cry,
or, some legs guy I like
but grabs her belongings and leaves. Greg moves to the how you looked. Period.
window to watch her leave, in the car of her new fianc.
He sits down and begins to read again, but cannot Greg
concentrate. He rests his head in his hands, as a Gregs Monologue
buzzer in the background calls him back to work again.

Gregs Monologue
A final moment with Greg, in which he delivers a
monologue directly to the audience. Greg talks about
what he has learnt from the whole experience with
Steph. He has learnt not only that beauty is just skin
deep, but that it also may not actually exist it is just a
mirage. Beauty is something with no real value, and yet
we chase it so intensely. It is just a small par of who a
person is and should not be of any consequence, yet it
is, and obsession with appearance pervades all of
society. Greg tells us that he is now taking a

Resource Pack: Reasons To Be Pretty 18


Plot Summary

Tom Burke and Sin Brooke


Photo: Keith Pattison

Humanities elective at college, and he recounts an experience he had in class previously. He was
looking at a painting of Venus by Velasquez, and it made him think of the subjective power of beauty
how everyone has a different perception of what beauty is. It struck him that this was what he had
been trying to explain to Steph, that we should not worry about being beautiful because it does not
matter; however he came across as the bad guy in the situation.

Greg believes the truth is that what happened with Steph has made him a better, improved person.
He has become less judgmental about people and he knows how to treat women better.

A bell rings in the background and Greg checks his watch. He reveals that Steph got married two
weeks ago, and he was invited. He sat with Carly and her daughter. Kent did not attend. He remarks
that Steph looked great and glowing walking up the aisle, and they shared a moment where they
locked eye contact. As she passed him, he whispered to her that she looked really pretty, and her eyes
thanked him. He wonders that what he really has taken from the break up with Steph is the
realisation that taking time to be nice to people is so important because life really is too short. The
play ends with Greg confirming his belief that it does not take much effort to be kind to people every
once in a while.

We all have a different perception of what real beauty is. Isnt that
funny? Hes saying its subjective and that none of us are wrongits
just about personal feelings and stuff. And, see thats all I was ever
trying to say to Steph.
Greg
Scene 12

19 Resource Pack: Reasons To Be Pretty


Design
Almeida Theatre - empty stage
Design is one of the most thrilling aspects of theatre Photo: Lara Platman
craft. The look of a show helps to set mood,
atmosphere, time and place. Design elements for
any production include set, lighting, sound and
music.
At the Almeida Theatre the set design is the first and last thing the
audience sees. As soon as the audience enters they can see the set
and this, together with any sound effects, or music, will begin to
determine how they will experience the production. This initial
impression helps to set the tone for the story to come.
A BRIEF HISTORY:
The designer, therefore, has to consider what impression he wants The Almeida Theatre
to make on the audience before the play begins. The designer will seats 325 people, and
look for clues in the play text and will liaise with the director and re-opened in 2003
the playwright about these.
after extensive
There are also practical considerations for the designer, such as refurbishment. The
how big the stage is; what kind of flexibility is required in terms of building dates back to
entrances and exits; and whether the play is set in a specific time 1837, and was
period. The designer often has to be very creative designing a set
originally the Islington
which calls for several different locations.
Scientific and Literary
Designing for the Almeida Theatre Institution. During the
The Almeida Theatre was not purpose-built as a theatre so does war it was used as a
not have the specialised architectural features which typify most
Salvation Army
purpose-built performance venues: a flytower, orchestra pit, wings,
offstage area (indeed our back stage is actually sub-stage in the Citadel, and was later
excavated basement directly below the stage floor). This means a toy factory, before it
that our designers and production teams have to come up with was converted into a
ingenious solutions to create innovative sets in our found space. theatre in the late
The building is famous for its large curved brick wall at the back of 1970s.
the stage. This feature of the building is used as part of the set
design for many of the Almeidas productions. Even when the
actual wall is not visible in the set, the brickwork is often echoed as
a feature in the design.

Resource Pack: Reasons To Be Pretty 20


Design

Reasons To Be Pretty Set - Break Room Model Box


Photo: Soutra Gilmour

The set for Reasons To Be Pretty is designed by Soutra Gilmour.


At the start of rehearsals, designer Soutra Gilmour spoke to us about her design for Reasons To Be
Pretty, explaining her inspiration behind the look and feel she has created for the production. In
creating a design, the designer and director will have lengthy discussions about what they want the
set design to achieve, and the designer will bear in mind both practical and thematic or aesthetic
qualities to reach the end result.

In designing the set for Reasons To Be Pretty, Soutra had three main considerations that she perceived
the design needed to deal with. These were: practicality; visual balance; and meaning in relation to the
play. The first, practicality, is a common feature of all Almeida Theatre designs, and a major concern
for all designers working at the theatre. With no wing space, the Almeida stage places restrictions on
a design especially if multiple locations are needed; and the action of Reasons To Be Pretty shifts
between a number of environments, between twelve relatively short scenes. There is a strong element
of televisuality about the script, in this sense, and the design therefore needed to facilitate fluidity of
movement between scenes and a set that could move between separate spaces effectively and
smoothly. Reasons To Be Pretty, like much of LaButes work, is a fast-moving, up-tempo play with
quick-fire dialogue. The impact and speed of delivery is designed to take maximum impact on the
audience, where ideas are developed in rapid succession, and the audience are constantly kept
engaged and on their toes. For this reason, the need for the design to be able to absorb this pace is at
its core. As much of the play is set in the warehouse where Greg, Kent and Carly work, the design took
an element of this as its focus, placing a shipping container centre stage, amid a bleak and minimal
background. The shipping container revolves, and can be positioned at multiple angles, to create
multiple locations; furthermore, both parallel sides of the crate open out, revealing rooms inside
firstly Steph and Gregs bedroom, and then repeatedly the workplace break room. This is both a space
saving device and a facility to allow maximum variety of location. Additionally, pieces of set can be
hung from or swung out from parts of the container to add further realistic detail for example the
mall caf scene sees a serving hatch and canopy; the restaurant foyer gives us some greenery and
glass detail. Whilst the container itself remains, ostensibly, a container, the detail added within and

21 Resource Pack: Reasons To Be Pretty


outside is realistic, and particularly in the interior

Design
scenes, inside the container, draw the audience in, and a
whole new space is delineated.

Once the main outline for a design was established,


further detail could be added; and Soutras second
consideration was to balance the mundane ugliness of
this manufacturing or warehouse environment the
shipping container with the beauty of the Almeida
building. Soutra felt that the difference between texture
and style would be further juxtaposed by making the
container appear metallic, to contrast to the bare
brickwork which is still visible. The set, apart from the
container, is kept bare aside from the other containers
we can see in the wings, which add to the factory floor
feel. It is almost positioned like an installation in the
space at once acknowledging the presence of the set
itself, and the environment in which it is contained.

The final consideration was one of ensuring the set


itself bore some meaning in relationship to the themes
and issue of Reasons To Be Pretty the play. To this end,
Soutras design adds fine realistic finishes to the detail
within each scene down to the break room walls or the
ornaments in the bedroom, the football field scoreboard
or the chairs and tables of the mall caf. These gems of
detail as Soutra termed them, highlight little spots of
realistic beauty, within a largely symbolic, brutal and
industrial-looking set, calling on the idea of beauty being
found anywhere where you look hard enough. This idea
is developed even further in the concept of having the
shipping container open out to reveal beautiful or
comfortable environments within beauty found on the
inside.

The crate itself is not actually on a revolve, but is moved


by stage crew, alluding to the manual labour undertaken
on a daily basis by Kent and Greg in the warehouse
whilst we only see Kent and Greg in relatively static
scenarios, on their breaks, the movement of the heavy
container reminds us the audience of the strenuous
nature of their employment as blue collar workers, and
its continual reoccurrence further reminds us also that
this is what they do all day every day.
Reasons To Be Pretty Set. Top to bottom: pre-set;
bedroom (Scene 1); mall cafe (Scene 3)
All these three elements are crucial in the design of Photos: Soutra Gilmour
Reasons To Be Pretty and make the set more than just
the place on which LaButes words are performed.
Design can be an innately theatrical experience,
enhancing and enriching a text.

Resource Pack: Reasons To Be Pretty 22


Almeida Projects spoke to Designer, Soutra Gilmour, about her design concept
Interview with Designer for Reasons To Be Pretty,and the process of bringing it to the Almeida stage.
Almeida Theatre: How did you approach the design process for Reasons To Be Pretty?

Soutra Gilmour: For Reasons To Be Pretty, the design process started back in the summer. Originally I
was talking to Neil [LaBute] about it. Wed worked together earlier in the year on his production of In
a Forest Dark and Deep so we had an experience of working together and of knowing each others
aesthetic. I suppose we have quite similar things we like and are interested in. In a Forest Dark and
Deep was in some ways very simple because it was one space one cabin in the woods. Coming to
Reasons To Be Pretty was a whole different ball game. The first thing youre struck by is the multi-
locational quality of it. Thats something that you often get in a set, but there was something quite
specific about the different locations [in Reasons To Be Pretty] it wasnt the kind of play where you
could say, OK, well have an empty set and one chair in the middle of the room and well just keep
imagining a new space each time. There was a sense that those spaces needed some of the kind of
naturalistic detail of the coffee machine in the break room, the shelf with trophies so that you had
the context of each of the rooms.

So I suppose the first part of the design brief to myself, was something that could allow us to do all
of those things and quickly, with fluidity, so as not to hold up the action. The second part of the
brief I gave myself was how to make a play that had, theoretically, quite a Mid-West, modern, bland
aesthetic sit in the Almeida with its old brick walls, and its beautiful soulful space. And how to make
those two things make some sense together.

I latched onto the core space in the play: the break room in the warehouse. Of course it could have
been a modern air-craft hanger kind of warehouse, but because we were in the Almeida I chose to
make it an old brick warehouse. The aim was somehow to use the Almeida as the shell for the whole
play and then find a kind of unit in the middle that could keep changing, evolving. I collected lots of
images of all sorts of things, warehouses and industrial spaces. And then one of the things that
really struck me, that I got excited by, was the idea of the shipping container and the fact that it was a
sculpture that could sit in the space and
make the whole space a warehouse. But
also it has an interior, a room inside it, to
allow it to become the bedroom, or the
break room, all of the rooms that we
needed.

So I started with this idea of having this


one single box in the space, with a
concrete floor. Then I started to work on
what might be inside the box and how the
it might be used. Some of the rooms were
easy: there was a bedroom and there was
a break room. Both those spaces have
quite big, unwieldy furniture objects. At
first I wasnt sure whether the objects
would be inside the box, or whether they
would pop up through traps. By working
through the problems and what we
needed in each scene, we realised that the
inside of the box could be divided into our
two main interior spaces: the bedroom
and the break room. The break room we
The storage crate in construction
come back to four times in the play, so it
Photo: Soutra Gilmour
would have been a complete pain to keep

23 Resource Pack: Reasons To Be Pretty


resetting a kitchen, a coffee machine and shelves of trophies. So it was brilliant to have it all stored

Interview with Designer


inside the box.

So wed sorted the bedroom and the break room, but then we needed all the other spaces which were
more tricky the caf and the restaurant. So we started to find other ways of playing with the box: of
pulling out canopies for the caf, pulling out sliders with doors in them for the restaurant, using the
simple box shape as the edge of the baseball field, so it acted as a porter cabin or a changing room at
the edge of the field.

The box also needed to move so we would have access to seeing inside the two rooms. So then we
had the idea to have a manual revolve, operated by the crew on stage, so that it had that feeling of
warehouses and manual work so the crew are like people who might work in the warehouse.

AT: How much have you been involved in the rehearsal process, with Director Michael Attenborough,
and how has this affected your work?

SG: Through the rehearsal process, we had to work out how not only the box moves, but how the
actor find him or herself inside the box. Maybe they have to get themselves ready for the next scene
as the box is revolving, or maybe a piece of furniture needs to be moved for the actor to access the
access door in the box. As well as the actors inside the box, there were stage managers too,
manipulating various things that were happening: popping up tables or moving things out the way so
that access door into the box was free for people to come in and out ready for the next scene. So we
then had to create this quite complicated scene shift document, detailing exactly what happens during
every scene change.

We wanted a feel that theres a sense of surprise about how the box keeps adjusting itself, changing,
or moving the scene on. Something thats so simple in shape can allow us to be in all these different
places, as quickly and efficiently as possible. Obviously the Almeida is quite a particular space its
quite tricky to bring lots of furniture on and off as theres no wing space; and because its quite a light
space even getting full darkness is quite tricky. It was about making those transitions as fun and
interesting as possible.

AT: Reasons To Be Pretty has previously been staged in New York. Did you see any of the previous
productions?

SG: I dont really look at previous productions. Its not very often that you would look at someone
elses designs. For new plays, you cant; And for classic plays, theres not much need to - you can
envisage what other people might have done with previous Hamlets. But Reasons To Be Pretty is
somewhere in between, because it is a new play, but not a premiere. This was quite specific so I did
look at past productions for this play, including production shots and photos of the model box from
the New York production. Its an interesting quandary: inevitably you want to do something different,
but that could make you start doing things for the wrong reasons. You have to follow your personal
reactions to the play you might pick up on something someone has done but thats probably
because its right.

I think this is a particularly tricky play to design which is why I was interested to see other peoples
responses. And also its an American play set in a very specific part of the world that has its own
aesthetic. I was interested to see how American productions handled that, because obviously its
much more their part of the world than it is mine.

AT: Does the writer or director ever say what they want you to pick up in the script or are you given
your own space to have your personal reaction?

SG: All directors are different in terms of what they want from designers. In this particular instance,
up to the point we got to the rehearsal room, it was very much driven by my impulses. And then from

Resource Pack: Reasons To Be Pretty 24


then it was very much the kind of
Interview with Designer reaction to things that Ive done like,
could we have a bit more space
here or could the restaurant feel a
little bit more like an Italian
restaurant? So it was very much
specific feedback to the overall idea
Id given.

Sometimes its the opposite


sometimes a director has some very
specific images that they imagine
throughout the piece, but they dont
necessarily know how to get from A
to B so your role is about making
the arc between the images. With
other directors, Ive got an open
book, and I can come with my ideas,
my response to the script and start
the dialogue from there. Thats great
as it allows the most personal
reaction to the work and therefore
youve got the strongest connection The storage crate in construction - door detail
to it. Its very difficult for a designer Photo: Soutra Gilmour
just to respond to someone elses
ideas, because theyre not inherent to you.

AT: What is it like designing for the Almeida Theatre as a specific space? What differentiates it from
other theatre spaces?

SG: All spaces are different really. The hardest spaces are black spaces thats difficult in itself as its
harder to respond to the room. I quite enjoy proscenium arch spaces where the set ends and the
theatre starts, with that whole relationship given by the threshold line between the audience and the
stage. At the Almeida that threshold is a given: theres not fixed stage, the audience wraps around the
stage. But its also a sort of proscenium arch, but it isnt hard here at the Almeida in the way that it
can be with some more gold, ornate framings. What is tricky at the Almeida is that you cant get away
from the nature of the space. You can put anything in a black box and it will work Im not sure thats
the case with the Almeida. Its got so much personality, such specific colour and architecture and
such a particular relationship between the stage and the audience. I think you have to make a delicate
relationship between those things and not sit something too incongruous against it. Thats my first
reaction to the space - its my first time working here.

AT: Even though the play has a Mid-West American setting, Neil LaBute doesnt tie it to a specific
town or city. Did that help you, or was it something to overcome?

SG: When I first did the design I referred to those classic boring postcards of hotels and canteens in
America in the 1950s. That classic, generic American architecture is what Neil was asking for, by not
being specific. Its fairly temporary, new architecture, that doesnt pertain to a specific place - malls
are the same in Ohio as they are in Seattle or Dubai. Whilst on the surface, its a bit boring, its also
very accessible and instantly recognisable, and sort of without class. I dont know if thats something
Neil thinks about at all but its quite interesting in terms of our imaginings that America is a place
with less class division. These are the kind of middle-of-the-range places that everybody goes to. They
dont have the sense of a poor part of town or a rich part of town its just the mall. It allows it to be
recognisable America which is useful for an English audience its the place we imagine America to
be. Even if, in fact, America is not that.

25 Resource Pack: Reasons To Be Pretty


AT: You might imagine being a set

Interview with Designer


designer is quite creative. But do you
actually have to have quite a
mathematical mind to work out
exactly how things are going to
work?

SG: Its fairly basic maths. I always


say that doing set design is a
fascinating job because youre totally
a jack of all trades and a master of
none! You have to know how to do a
lot of things like make models
based on ideas, draw technical
drawings, and when you first start
you have to be able to paint and
build things. But youre certainly not
a master of any of those. Through
your career you learn more and more
details about all of those things, but
also more and more details about
what other people need from you
The set in construction - floor detail and what their responsibilities are.
Photo: Soutra Gilmour Whats absolutely amazing to me is,
as a designer, youre probably the
only single person who works with absolutely everybody involved in the production. Its very rare, for
example, for the director to have anything to do with the set builder. Whilst the director in some ways
appears to be the person whos holding it all together, its actually the designer who works with the
director, the stage manager and production team carpenters, set builders, painters, costume
designers, the writers, the actors.

This means you have an amazing eye view on the whole process which I think is one of the things I
love about it so much. But it also means that you have to work out how everybodys process works.
The longer you work, the more you pick up the various skills bases and start to really understand what
it is all those people need from you and how best to get what you need to do your job. So whilst
absolutely youve got to know about maths, you dont need to know about maths in the same way as a
set builder does: I dont need his sense of engineering particularly on a set like Reasons To Be
Pretty, which has complex engineering. Ive got to know its going to work, and Ive got to have a good
sense of how it might work, otherwise it would be foolish to hand it over to the set builder and say
can you make that work please? In the process of designing and model making Ive worked out
quite a lot of how its going to function but then you go into the detail of that with the set builder. The
set builders and I had a long session going through all the various issues, and then made all the
adjustments we needed to do to the design to complement the engineering.

SB: In this production, how involved are you in the costumes?

SG: Completely involved in the costumes thats my job, to design set and costumes. The thing
about costume, particularly with something as modern and current as this, is that you very much
discuss it with the actors. Its got to be character-led, so I didnt need to do drawings before
rehearsals. At the end of the first week of rehearsals, I had a discussion with the company and talked
through character details the world of the play and the relationship to the characters. Its to do with
their emotions and personality its not about whether theyd wear pink or green. From there, the
Costume Supervisor and I go off shopping and then we have fittings where weve got a load of
different things which we try out. Its a process of elimination really. Its completely different if youre
doing a period drama then you need to design costumes and do drawings. In modern drama, we all

Resource Pack: Reasons To Be Pretty 26


know so much about the clothes: we know what clothes mean and we make choices about people all
Interview with Designer the time based on their clothing and we understand the language of that. Its really key to make sure
actors are really comfortable about who they are and what theyre wearing and they know the
character more than you.

AT: How do you know when youve done your job well? What does it add to the production when
youve done your job well?

SG: It really depends on the production. You want the design to absolutely hold, enhance and frame
the production, whilst absolutely not getting in its way, slowing it down, or overwhelming it. Theres
the classic saying, the best design is when nobody notices it. I dont believe that because I get
excited by visual stuff: I do want to notice the design. I think its really important to have bold and
exciting things on stage because its a visual medium. But absolutely dont want it to hinder or get in
the way of the action and fluidity of the piece. And you certainly want it to be a pedestal for the actors
and the action, rather than the sculpture itself.

AT: For Reasons To Be Pretty, are there any things that you hope people will or wont notice about the
design?

SG: I hope we get from one scene to another really quickly! And that when weve got to each new
scene theres enough detail in it that you can be absolutely sure of where you are thats theres a
balance between getting enough stuff on stage, but we havent held up the action by getting too
much on. I think thats the tricky thing about this production I want those transitions to feel fun
and part of the action, but not to become boring or laborious or time consuming.

AT: How have you approached the monologues, as part of the set design?

SG: Were using the box in three or four different ways for the monologues including Kent sitting on
the roof for his. At that point maybe its a container, maybe its a wall, maybe its just a mind space. I
think thats one of the things thats exciting about good design is that you create a space thats
transformable. So whilst this is absolutely a shipping container, at some points it becomes all these
other spaces: it has that transformative quality. But equally just as itself as the box sometimes you
can feel its there, sometimes its not. Its just the right balance of real and unreal that allows it to
become just the mind space for the monologues.

Thats always the line youre playing with in theatre whether its reality or poetry. I think thats really
interesting not least because were having a real experience in real time. There really is a box in the
space, there is someone sitting on it, but were in an artificial narrative, which is not in the Almeida.
The set has to allow you to fly with that, and not bog you down too much: it needs a lightness of
touch.

The set in construction


Photo: Soutra Gilmour

27 Resource Pack: Reasons To Be Pretty


Neil LaBute
Neil LaBute is an American
playwright, screenwriter and director.
Born in Detroit, Michigan in 1963, he
has been writing for theatre and film
since the late 1980s.
LaBute grew up in Spokane, Washington and
studied Theatre at the Brigham Young
University, Utah. While studying at BYU LaBute
formed a friendship with actor Aaron Eckhart
who has since appeared in a number of LaButes
lays and subsequent films. BYU is known to be a
conservative religious university, and several of
LaButes plays that he staged there during the
course of his studies were shut down by the
institution. LaBute was not deterred by this and
continued to write and stage his own work;
indeed BYU recognised his talent, honouring
him as one of the most promising
undergraduate playwrights of his cohort. Upon
graduating, LaBute also did graduate work at the
University of Kansas, New York University, and
the Royal Academy of London. He was also
Neil LaBute awarded a literary fellowship to study with the
Photo: Bridget Jones
Royal Court Theatre.

LaBute now works across both film and theatre. He is well known for his multi-award winning 1997
film In the Company of Men. Although a number of his plays have been filmed and LaBute has
worked as screenwriter and film director he still feels more at home in the theatre.

As a playwright LaButes work is heavily dialogue-led, driven by manipulation of language. His work
often displays quick-fire dialogue, rhythmic patterning and use of contemporary and colloquial
vernacular. On the page, he is noted for his use of the slash ( / ), indicating where dialogue should
overlap thus mimicking realistic speech patterns. His dialogue is also distinctively American,
although it is characteristic of him not to specify exact locations.

Stylistically, LaBute has acknowledged that he was influenced by some of Britains leading playwrights
such as Edward Bond, David Hare and Caryl Churchill. However, his writing can be compared
strongly to that of his contemporary and one of his favourite American playwrights, David Mamet.
Thematically, too, LaBute and Mamet bear similarities, in a concern with male/female dynamics in
relationships in society, gender politics and political correctness. LaButes work, like Mamet, has
often been criticised for its misogynistic overtones, and moreover, critics have noted he has a
misanthropic leaning. Both these criticisms LaBute denies he believes his work is concerned with
uncovering some of the darker sides of human nature, holding up a mirror to the more unpleasant
aspects of human behaviour.

Reasons To Be Pretty is the third in a trilogy of plays concerned with societys attitude towards physical
appearance, following The Shape of Things and Fat Pig, the latter of which received its premiere in
London in 2008. This issue, of societys unhealthy quest for physical ideals, is one that LaBute feels
great concern towards, and has called it a tyranny on society both men and women. All three
works explore controversial elements of this argument, about gender politics, what society deems it
is acceptable to say (or not), and ultimately about the futility of basing judgments of people on their
physicality.

Resource Pack: Reasons To Be Pretty 28


Neil LaBute LaButes most recent play to be premiered in London before Reasons To Be Pretty was In a Forest Dark
and Deep, which ran at the Vaudeville Theatre from March to June 2011. Like Reasons To Be Pretty, In
a Forest Dark and Deep is also set in the Mid-West of American and also concerns the deceptiveness
of appearance; yet it is rather more an exploration of truth and moral values. It also draws on the
themes of sibling encounters and revisiting childhood that LaBute explored in his previous Almeida
Theatre production, In A Dark Dark House.

Neil LaBute has had a long relationship with the Almeida, and its Artistic Director, Michael
Attenborough, where no less than six of his plays have had their World or European premieres.
Reasons To Be Pretty is the third Neil LaBute play directed by Michael Attenborough.

Selected Plays
1989 Filthy Talk For Troubled Times
1992 In the Company of Men
1999 Bash: Latter-Day Plays (2000, Almeida Theatre - World Premiere)
2001 The Shape of Things (2001, Almeida Theatre - World Premiere)
2002 The Distance From Here (2002, Almeida Theatre - World Premiere)
The Mercy Seat (2003, Almeida Theatre - European Premiere)
2003 Autobahn
2004 Fat Pig
2005 This Is How It Goes
Some Girl(s)
Wrecks
2007 In A Dark Dark House (2008, Almeida Theatre - European Premiere)
2008 Reasons To Be Pretty (2011, Almeida Theatre - European Premiere)
Helter Skelter/Land of the Dead
2009 The Break of Noon Premiere
The New Testament
Helter Skelter
Some White Chick
The Purple Marmoset I've really enjoyed the time I've spent
The Furies working in film thus far in my career,
2010 Filthy Talk for Troubled Times but nothing feels like home as much
2011 In a Forest, Dark and Deep
as a theatre does.
Neil LaBute
Selected Filmography Interviewed in The Guardian, 2008
1997 In the Company of Men
1998 Your Friends & Neighbors
2000 Tumble (Sundance short)
Nurse Betty
2001 Bash: Latter-Day Plays (TV)
2002 Possession
2003 The Shape of Things
2006 The Wicker Man
2008 Lakeview Terrace
2010 Death at a Funeral
Sexting (short)

29 Resource Pack: Reasons To Be Pretty


LaBute on Reasons
Tom Burke and Billie Piper in rehearsal
Photo: Matt Humphrey

The following is an extract from Neil LaButes preface to Reasons To Be Pretty, in


which he discusses some of the themes driving his writing of the play.
Name the asshole who first invented mirrors.

Im not actually posing that question, as I could quickly find out on my own by using my handy Google
button or whipping over to Wikipedia, but I havent bottomed out that far as a writer (or a human
being) quite yet. I still like to look things up for myself occasionally, even cracking open an old leather-
bound edition of encyclopaedias from time to time to get a piece of information. I know somebody
invented mirrors they exist, after all; no doubt someones ancestors are taking credit for the discovery
but Im asking in a more general way, a sort of Why did they bother? Do we really need to see
ourselves that clearly? Or at all? We see others for who they are physically, at least and yet we never
actually see ourselves outright, always catching a glance in a windows reflection or in the glimmer off a
lakes placid surface. But we want more. We want to know what we really look like, what people really
think of us; if were pretty enough, good enough, the best. We are creatures of desire we want all the
time. Its endless, how much we crave things compliments and cars and lotto tickets (because if we
win well have a lot of money, and then we can get more stuff) and so we work and spend time away
from our loved ones, always telling ourselves that this is the way of the world and everybody does it and
my kids want it, and so life slips away. You attend your school of choice (if youre lucky), and you get
your job of choice (if youre lucky), and you slave away at it until its time to retire and somebody else
takes your desk two days after you leave, and you go to Florida a few times, and then youre done.
Gone. What will you leave behind, dear reader? Something, I hope.

Every so often I think that all thatll remain when Ive left this place is two great kids and six inches of
library space taken up by my published works. There is a lovely line in A. S. Byatts novel Possession that
sums it up very well: To a dusty shelf we aspire. We writers stare into a variety of mirrors, studying the
faces of people we dont yet know as we make them up, working to create a series of believable
psychological profiles for a bunch of folks who dont really exist. I prefer it to life most of the time, as
its much safer and a whole lot easier. These people all seem to be the same as us, unfortunately my

Resource Pack: Reasons To Be Pretty 30


LaBute on Reasons flaws become theirs and their wants and loves grow out of my own, and suddenly Im surrounded by
the same miserable, lovely, lonely, sad, terrific people that I was escaping from in the first place. And
all these characters stare in their own mirrors and wonder if they too are good and pretty and smart
and liked. Or at least good and pretty and smart and liked enough. Am I just pretty enough? Enough
to get by and not be laughed at, and to meet someone and be happy? All because we cant be sure,
having never really seen ourselves. Those damn mirrors are of absolutely no use to us, in the end.
They tell us exactly what we wish to hear everything, in fact, but the truth. What is it to be pretty?
Its not beautiful, and its certainly not ugly. Why do we care about it so much? Why do we get so
caught up in what other people think? Probably for the same reasons we use Google and laugh along
when somebody tells a joke that we dont get and all continue to go into debt but keep these stupid
smiles plastered on our faces. Because were deathly afraid of being singled out for being anything but
normal. We go to high school for three or four years, but it colours our entire lives we continue to
live some version of its schedules and cliques for the rest of our natural days. In school we were all
desperate to fit in and yet desperate to stand out; the rest of life is merely a variation of all that. Its a
deadly game of push-pull.

If I could be anything but a writer and I cant, Ive tried I would be a braver person. One who just
doesnt give two shits about what other people say or think or feel; I dont think that would make me
callous or uncaring or stuck-up (to utilize a wonderfully high-schoolish word). I think it would simply
make me hold my head up a little higher, look people in the eye for a bit longer, make my smile a little
broader (and any picture of me will attest that smiling is not my strong suit). I hope this play makes a
case for being yourself and standing up for what you believe in. For being brave. For making choices
that are hard and adult and not easy. For going out and being a part of the world instead of a mere
observer. Ive written about a lot of men who are really little boys at heart, but Greg, the protagonist in
this play, just might be one of the few adults Ive ever tackled. The play talks a bit about our countrys
(and, by extension, the worlds) obsession with physical beauty, but its really the first coming-of-age
story Ive written. A boy grows up and becomes a man. I suppose every writer has one of those stories
to tell, and this one is mine. It also concerns a very blue-collar side of the work population, like the
friends and family I grew up with. I know what a dead-end job is like. I know exactly what its like to be
eating your lunch at 3:00 a.m. and feeling like life as you know it is now officially over. I have a
profound respect for work and workers and communities who live from paycheck to paycheck. The
worst day Ive had writing is better than the best day I ever had working in a factory, and the people
who do it, year after year, because thats life, and food and rent and child support must be paid, have
all my respect. Writing is easy. Life is hard. Its more than hard its a bitch (as many bumper stickers
are happy to point out for us). I suppose thats why I like the person who spends more time working
than on Facebook, the person who gets out there and lives his life rather than blogging about it or
staring in the mirror wondering about anything so damn inconsequential as looks or hair or yesterday.
The future is now. Its time to grow up and be strong. Tomorrow may well be too late.

Neil LaBute, 2008

31 Resource Pack: Reasons To Be Pretty


Almeida Projects spoke to Neil LaBute during the rehearsal period for Reasons

Neil LaBute Interview


to be Pretty, to ask about his work play and his inspiration behind his new play.
Almeida Theatre: Reasons To Be Pretty is the third play in a trilogy, focusing on societys obsession
with appearance. What was your inspiration, following The Shape of Things and Fat Pig, behind
writing Reasons To Be Pretty as the third play in that set?

Neil LaBute: I wish there had been more of an initial inspiration for a trilogy but Reasons To Be Pretty
was first imagined as a singular work and it was only as I began to think about it in earnest that I saw
the potential in its themes to build upon what I had already examined in the two previous plays. Once
the idea was in my head, however, the structure, number of characters and the central male figure
were all dictated by the format I had employed in The Shape Of Things and Fat Pig. As I was writing
this final instalment in what Ive now heard referred to as 'the beauty trilogy,' I began to see
connections (both overt and otherwise) that I didn't previously notice or at least acknowledge in those
other stories, even though they too were concerned with body image and society's fascination with the
physical self.

AT: Did you always intend to write a trilogy about societys preoccupation with looks, and what was
the genesis of this theme?

NLB: Im not a very good planner in any aspect of my life, so the answer is undoubtedly no. I think
my own interest in why people are so drawn to beauty and how that can be both a positive and a
negative thing has always been there, at least as long as Ive been writing on a professional level. That
said, I did not anticipate that I would return to those themes three times over the course of a decade
(along with a few shorter plays and/or essays that also touch on similar themes). I guess this either
means that Im tenacious and love to get to the heart of the matter or I need to get out more.
Whatever it says about myself and others, I know that beauty (like young and power and money and
health) is one of those commodities that continues to fascinate and attract most of us on some level,
even while it confounds us in other ways. Keats was definitely on to something but beauty is truth is
only the half of it.

AT: Do you think the audience opinion in London will differ from the reception in New York?

NLB: Yes and no - I hope audiences will accept this very American sounding play on its own merits (as
seems to have been my luck in the past) but Im sure it may strike a deeper, richer chord with a home-
town audience who feel even closer to the people and experiences that are portrayed in the story. In
general I find London audiences sophisticated and lovers of language so it's great to put a play like
this one up on a stage in that city but I love New York crowds, whether it's at the theatre or a tennis
match, and there is an energy there that is undeniable. Im lucky to have productions in both of those
cities and to prefer one over the other is a game Id rather not play. Good is good and I think that
simple idea rings true to me - Im in very good hands at the Almeida and so I expect the production to
have a chance at reaching the best and widest audience possible at that venue.

AT: Reasons To Be Pretty is the sixth play of yours to be staged at the Almeida Theatre, the last being
In A Dark Dark House in 2009. Did you always intend to return?

NLB: It was very important for me to have this play presented at the Almeida - ten years ago I started
the trilogy at the temporary home for the Almeida in King's Cross and it was a seminal experience for
me. A brilliant cast and a facility that was completely unique allowed me to be a part of something
really special. Fat Pig played in the West End, which was very exciting as well, but I really hoped to
bring this last section of the trilogy back to the Almeida where it all began. I feel extremely fortunate to
have Michael Attenborough directing my work again - he's now directed more plays of mine than
anyone else in England (at least by someone who has actually paid the royalties).

AT: What is it about the Almeida Theatre that you feel suits your work and makes it a good space?

Resource Pack: Reasons To Be Pretty 32


Neil LaBute Interview

Kieran Bew in rehearsal


Photo: Matt Humphrey

NLB: There is a wonderful flexibility to the space that has been there ever since Ive been going there
as a theatre student years ago and certainly while Ive been working there. Jonathan Kent and Ian
McDiarmid set the bar very high for me and Michael has continued that tradition; its a space (like
the Donmar) that feels both intimate and epic and that curved wall of brick in the back of the space
is really something special to me. I can actually feel the history of the place when Im in there and
the ghosts, both theatrical and otherwise, are very present. I love the whole history of the theatre and
I respect it more than most things in life and the Almeida just feels good to me, like a kind of home
(but one where I don't have to do any lawn work).

AT: Your work is known to be quite provocative, exposing uncomfortable truths of human
personalities, yet this has been described as your most empathetic play, kinder - why is this? What
has changed for you?

NLB: Certainly nothing has changed in me as a person or as a writer - I think that what people
noticed in the play was a greater sense of hope (which I think Ive always had, whether you could
notice it or not) and at least one major character (and yes, I mean a man) who finally acts like an
adult for once. I've written a number of stories about boy/men, guys who can't or won't grow up
and take it out on those around them in various ways, both comic, tragic and horrific. I always try to
let the play dictate the ending rather than write something that I know might please the audience. I
can't help it - I care more about my characters than I do for the people watching them. Not that I
don't like people (I do), but I figure they're mostly adults and real and they can fend for themselves;
my characters only have me to watch out for them so that's what I do. I listen and I write and I let
them tell their story.

AT: In Reasons To Be Pretty there are four quite different characters. Who do you sympathise with?
Do you think the audience will feel the same way?

NLB: I want to sympathise with all of them at some point or theres really no reason for them to be
there - everybody does what they do in the play based on a variety of reasons, some good and some
bad, but I hope all of them (even Kent) is a recognisable human being and that, if even just for a
moment, the audience is able to understand them and why they are driven to do what they do. It's
easy to hurl words like bitch and asshole around but I try to see what drives them to make the

33 Resource Pack: Reasons To Be Pretty


mistakes they do and what happens after that - thats what I like best in a story, what comes after we

Neil LaBute Interview


falter or fail.

AT: Are any of the characters autobiographical in any way? Or based on true stories?

NLB: No, other than the fact that I had a number of really shitty, really hard manual labour jobs when I
was a young man. I worked the midnight shift in a variety of factories and the like and its a whole
different world out there, eating and lifting and being awake when everybody else you know is not. It's
hard on the body and the mind and that was the backdrop I wanted to really bring to life in this play -
trying to deal with lifes problems when you feel like youre sleepwalking through the day. The story and
the characters were just figments of my overactive imagination.

AT: The setting for the play is quite vague, both the location and the details of their workplace, what
are the reasons for this?

NLB: I wanted the play to feel as universal as possible - I often set my plays or films in landscapes that
feel familiar without being too specific. I would like them to be resonant years from now as well as in
the moment, but I also like the idea that someone is Cornwall and someone in Iowa can look at the
town or the job and say yeah, that seems real to me. I know that place. It's not a matter of being lazy
(well, maybe a little) but that's not where I put in my time or research - I want to delve into the
psychology of the people rather than spend time making sure that Ive written a photographic copy of
a specific town or person or job.

AT: How involved in this production are you? What is your relationship as a writer, generally speaking,
with a production of one of your plays?

NLB: As the writer, I try to be as involved as the director will allow me to be, especially with new
material. When I'm not directing, I put my entire trust in the hands of the production's director as I
know that the play is mine but the production is his or her vision of that material. with Michael it's
easy to give over to his ideas because they're always good and we have a working relationship that is
simple and secure; we're not afraid to say the truth and all we both care about is mounting a great
show. I make myself available, I listen and speak when I have something to say and I watch all the
time. I love a night at the theatre and when it's my own work, Im doubly pleased (unless the audience
hates it, in which case my evening is compromised and so I run to a restaurant and eat my feelings).

AT: As someone who has worked extensively in film as well as theatre, what draws you particularly to
the theatre?

NLB: I am at my most happy and relaxed in the theatre - not just working or watching a show but
actually just in the building. I wont go down the usual the theatre is a temple route (because that or
any discussion about religion can get a little scary) but I like everything about my experiences in
theatre. It's not for the money, believe me, so it must be a simple case of love. I feel creative and
useful while in a rehearsal room or out on the stage and I enjoy being in the lobby at night, watching
the audience slowly filtering in, not knowing what to expect. Its a great life, even if its all an illusion
and a series of elaborate lies. Thats what theatre is, in the end, when its really working: a perfect lie.

AT: There are four monologues in the play why did you decide to include these, dramatically?

NLB: I originally wrote the play with the four monologues that are currently in the play. When it was
first produced off-Broadway by MCC Theatre they were intact throughout the run. On Broadway,
however, as people (by which I mean producers) were worried that the show was too long and asked
if we could try the show without them. I knew the story of the play would still be told if we removed
these sections as they didnt forward the plot so much as reveal character and, sadly, character is
always the first thing to get jettisoned when you're trimming for time. Ironically, we eventually cut the
monologues but added an intermission so the 'length' issue was negated. I like the monologues and

Resource Pack: Reasons To Be Pretty 34


think they add tremendously to not just the four characters but to the thematic arguments in the text.
Neil LaBute Interview I'm happy that Michael is considering keeping them in this production (with a few judicious cuts and a
few bits tucked into the dialogue between characters rather than as part of the original monologues).

AT: What do you want the audience to take away, most, from Reasons To Be Pretty?

NLB: Like always, I want people to have a good time, but by that I mean my idea of a good time - the
same thing I want when I go to the theatre or to the cinema. I want to be challenged and provoked and
made to laugh and cry and get pissed off a bit. I don't care if it's funny or angry or tragic as long as it's
good. I'd love people to look at these working class characters and see a little bit of their own lives up
on stage; I grew up in a very blue collar world and I have a healthy respect for people who work for a
living, whether they like that work or not. It's not easy and I try to give them a little bit of dignity and
understanding in this play.

AT: What part of the writing process is the most rewarding for you?

NLB: I love the writing process, the whole damn thing - I love stumbling onto an idea that I can't shake
and finally starting to write it. I love going over and over it, trying new words and sentences, building
the thing piece by piece. I love to re-write (some writers don't) and I'm pretty good at taking thoughts
and criticisms. I adore having readings now - I didn't use to or just didn't do it but I'm a lover of that
process these days - and of course seeing the thing come to life in the rehearsal room and finally on
stage. It's in my blood somehow, I don't know why, but I love the writing instruments and notebooks
and all of it. The printed script on the shelf in the bookstore. I'm a writer at heart, I'm lucky to have
found a thing in life that I like so much and have the freedom to do it. I can complain about a lot of
things (just ask me) but I rarely complain about work (well, not very loudly, anyway).

AT: What advice would you have for any young person who wanted to become a playwright?

NLB: Write! Its the same advice that I read in a letter from Chekhov to Gorki and Ive followed it for
years (and told many students of my own along the way). It's so simple and true - if you want to be a
writer, quit talking about it and do something about it. Shut up and write. Plays, sketches, poems,
screenplays or what have you, theres no recipe that beats the real thing. Put pen to paper or your
fingers to the keyboard and get started. Its actually one of the cheapest art forms to engage in as a
person and the results are immediate if not immediately satisfying. Its such a basic thing, in many
ways: put some words together, see what you think. Move them around, try it again. Repeat. Its not
quite like that but almost. Im not saying there arent good days and bad ones, but the pleasure I get
from doing it, just the act of writing, is worth all the headaches and heartaches of it. Quit texting or
tweeting or checking Facebook and write a five-page play, thats my advice to any young person who
cares to listen to me. Its much harder and far more exhilarating than you might think.

35 Resource Pack: Reasons To Be Pretty


In the Rehearsal Room
Michael Attenborough and Natasha Nixon in
rehearsal Assistant Director Natasha Nixon gives us a
Photo: Matt Humphrey unique insight into the rehearsal room, and
talks us through the process from page to
stage in her week-by-week rehearsal diary.

Week 1
The first week of rehearsals for Reasons To Be Pretty have
flown by! That old saying, time flies when youre having
fun certainly rings true as I recall being in gales of laughter
for most of the week - the heady mixture of Michael and
the cast sharing hilarious anecdotes in rehearsals and
seeing Neils darkly comic writing come to life. Without any
Carlys getting kinda tubby effort, I have found myself settling into my new home for
but its sort of cute too. the next few months, taking great pleasure in getting to
Never seen her with an ass know all the Almeida team and most certainly indulging in
far too many croissants and flapjacks.
like that beforeIll put up
with it, though. For now. Our meet and greet was delightful and I found it
Long as she hits the gym, humbling to see just how many people work at the Almeida
like, day after she delivers and who make it such a welcoming and creative place.
There was a crackling energy and sense of community in
were all fine. the room as Michael gave a brief introduction to the play
and introduced everyone. He then handed over to Soutra
Kent Gilmour (the designer), who told us about the concept
Scene 7 behind her design. I dont want to give too much away so
youll have to wait and see but, there were gasps and
wide-eyes in the room as Soutra explained how the design
unfolds as the play proceeds theres a clue in there
somewhere!

Without further ado, once the extended Almeida family had


gone back up to their offices, we sat around the table and
had our first read through. When you hear the script out

Resource Pack: Reasons To Be Pretty 36


In the Rehearsal Room loud for the first time the effect is electrifying.
Immediately, the different textures and musicality of
the lines flood out as you tune into the actors own
interpretation of their character. I felt incredibly lucky
and exhilarated to be amongst such a talented bunch
and I cant wait to get stuck into rehearsals.

After the read-through, we had a good chat about the


script. Michael went into more detail about his
working relationship with Neil, the history of the play
and what really captured his imagination when he
first read it. It resonated with me that although this
is such a contemporary play, the issues it addresses
are timeless. Namely, the difference between the
image we project and the internal perception of
ourselves. It is this tension and conflict between the
two that we constantly find ourselves battling with;
today more than ever as we are exposed to a plethora
of external pressures that affect this relationship. The
question is, how can we reconcile the two?

Once we had all spent three days talking through the


nuts and bolts of the play and felt clear about the
characters journey and relationships and what a lot
of these American references in the play really
mean we were ready to get it up on its feet and
Kieran Bew and Tom Burke in rehearsal
Photo: Matt Humphrey start from the top. Michaels aim was to let the
actors play and to plot through the structure of the
scenes; it felt very liberating and organic. Already, I
can see how these scenes are starting to take shape
and I eagerly await revisiting them and making new
discoveries.

I have to confess, there is something incredibly


seductive about this play, almost addictive... In the
words of Mr LaBute: We are creatures of desire we
want all the time. Bring on week two!
It just isn't possible to feel that
kind of, like, hatred--I guess
Week 2
that's what it is-- and still want Whilst doing the crossword on my lunch break it
to be with a person made me think that its actually a good analogy to
describe the rehearsal process! If we viewed the
Greg script as a crossword puzzle, in week two, with the
Scene 3 help of the clues we answered from week one, we are
enabled and informed to put in some more answers.
I must confess; there have been a few cheats with a
couple of emails back and forth to Neil LaBute for
some hints with the more cryptic clues!
Nevertheless, as we dig deeper into the play more
clues are answered and the puzzle is slowly but
surely unravelling before our eyes.

This week, we have been working our way back


through the play revisiting the scenes that we

37 Resource Pack: Reasons To Be Pretty


In the Rehearsal Room
Tom Burke and Sin Brooke in rehearsal
Photo: Matt Humphrey

touched on last week, developing the basic shape and starting


to hone in on the finer details. Michael encourages the actors
to play with sections of the scene and search for their own
answers whilst at the same time feeding in notes for them to
try. He is very approachable and versatile in his direction and
the notes range from the abstract, for example what the
temperature of the scene is, to the bigger questions such as,
what the characters agenda is and what tactics they are using,
to the more technical notes, such as if there should be a pause
or if the line needs to be on cue. Whichever type of note
Michael gives, he never loses the wood from the trees and has
a tight grasp of the story and the characters. We all feel very
much in safe hands! If you were pregnant - just
go with me for a second here
All the guidance and support from Michael in the rehearsal - imagine it and think it
room is wholeheartedly received and embraced by the talented
through with me... what'd be
and brave cast who are working incredibly hard each day. This
brings me onto the two special guests this week who have also your course of action in a
given their support: Penny Dyer and Terry King, the voice moment such as that? Of
coach and fight director, respectively. Each of the actors had a truth.
one-on-one session with Penny who gave invaluable
techniques and exercises to help with the Mid-West American Carly
accent in the play. Exercises such as hanging your tongue out Scene 6
or biting down on a pencil to the side of your mouth were the
bizarrely wonderful tips to help relax the back of your throat
and move the voice away from where us Brits like it, right at
the front on our lips! It was fascinating to see how the accent

Resource Pack: Reasons To Be Pretty 38


In the Rehearsal Room affects the character and their body language. Terry, the
fight director, came towards the end of the week to
show us the tricks of the trade from giving someone a
simple slap across the face to a good old pummelling!
He started the session by asking what the fight or slap
would look like if compromises for sightlines had to be
made and from there, as if like magic, choreographed a
painfully realistic stage fight and slap.

We ended the week with a production meeting over


lunch. This was a chance for the Almeida technical and
design team to touch base with news from the rehearsal
room and make sure we are all up to date. It is vital that
we are all on the same page as whilst we are working in
the rehearsal room the rest of the team are busy
sourcing props and building the set; all to ensure that
once we get into the technical rehearsals everything is
in place. It is a huge operation, not to mention the
marketing, press and administration team at the
Almeida who are also working their socks off upstairs in
the office.

It has been another fantastic week and we are all really


in to the swing of things now. Its thrilling to be making
Kieran Bew in rehearsal further discoveries and to find more of the answers to
Photo: Matt Humphrey the clues each day.

Week 3
The morning routine of nipping upstairs to get a coffee
before settling down to a line run is securely set in place
as we approach our mid way point in rehearsals.
Can you imagine what he's Discoveries continue to be made in rehearsal and feel
actually feeling about my body, just as fresh and vibrant as they did in week one. Scripts
are being put to one side as the actors take the plunge
and this isn't about sex, not
in remembering their lines and Michael is starting to
really, but just how he sees my cement the blocking and run the scenes. In spite of
legs or arms, any-thing. everyone being a little fatigued, everyones commitment
(along with a few caffeine fixes) is breeding a second
Steph wave of energy to push the play through to the next
Stephs Monologue stage.

A highlight this week has been Neil LaBute visiting us in


rehearsals from the states. He not only provided us with
pearls of wisdom and thought-provoking suggestions
about the script but lots of delicious treats from across
the road to nibble on too - thank you Neil! It was
fantastic to have him in the room and to see Michael
and the cast light up with excitement and pride of what
we have achieved so far. Of course, theres a part of us
all thinking what does he think? but, equally, I
imagine, Neil has also been thinking: how are they all
getting on over there? since our rehearsals started.

Neil was incredibly supportive and collaborative by

39 Resource Pack: Reasons To Be Pretty


giving little edits and tweaks in light of what he saw in

In the Rehearsal Room


rehearsals along with educating us about baseball and
certain pronunciations of profanities, which Im not at
liberty to write here!

Its rewarding to see how the scenes are gaining more


texture as smaller details are sown in and the actors
are released by letting go of their scripts. The history
between all the characters, their relationships to each
other and the world in which the play is set is really
illuminated now. In particular, something that intrigued
me about Reasons To Be Pretty when I first read it was
what it means to listen and be heard. Its fascinating to
track what the characters listen to, what they choose to
ignore, what they say out loud and indeed, what they
decide to cover up. Humour, being a powerful device
which all the characters use in order to cover up or
disguise the truth. Never a truer word is said in jest as
Geoffrey Chaucer reminds us in The Cooks Tale: But
yet I pray thee be not wroth for game; A man may say
full sooth in game and play.

We were lucky enough to be able to pop into the


Almeida theatre and have an afternoon rehearsal in the
space. This gave us a chance to imagine how it will feel
Billie Piper in rehearsal
and sound in performance and, I have to add, a Photo: Matt Humphrey
massive buzz in thinking that this is where well be in a
few weeks! From a technical point of view, it was a
great opportunity to be removed from our rehearsal
room bubble and think about the articulation,
sightlines and the relationship with the audience in the
space. All of which were rich findings to bring back and
use in the rehearsal room.
I see you looking at me - even
As week four approaches and we near technical
rehearsals and previews there is a healthy amount of now I can see you glancing
work still to do but, a readiness to start running the down at my legs and all that
scenes through and seeing the play as a whole. The crap... you totally miss me. My
safety nets and harnesses are all in place and now its
body.
time to jump!
Steph
Scene 5
Week 4
There is a real sense of liberation and playfulness in
the rehearsal room this week as the cast are no longer
inhibited by struggling to remember their lines or hold
onto their scripts, as the words gradually become
second nature. Another freeing element which has
enhanced rehearsals has been the infiltration of
different pieces of costume and props being brought
into the room. From handbags to handcuffs, taquitos
to the rather fetching baseball pants the boys have to
wear, the rich tapestry of the play is coming to life and
providing more fuel for the actors in development of
their character.

Resource Pack: Reasons To Be Pretty 40


In the Rehearsal Room

Bilie Piper, Tom Burke and Michael Attenborough in rehearsal


Photo: Matt Humphrey

The main event of this week has been running Act One. Michael, Helen (the Deputy Stage Manager)
and I gave no line prompts and left it to the cast to take responsibility and help each other through
any wobbly bits or line stumbles. It is a great chance for them to see that they can hold their own,
that they are clear and know the shape of the scenes as its not long now until they will be performing
in front of an audience! Equally, it was invaluable for Michael and I to see the scenes run into one
another and get more of a sense of the overall journey. It was brilliant to see the fluidity and rhythm
of the text giving a feel of genuine history between all these characters. Only with this history does
Kent (Kieran Bew) know how to win Carly (Billie Piper) round and Greg (Tom Burke) know how to
wind Steph (Sin Brooke) up to the extent that he does!

During the run of Act One, Michael wrote notes and after lunch (giving the actors a well deserved
break and a chance to take a sigh of relief!) we had a note session and made a shopping list. The
items on the list didnt consist of what they may pop in their trolley as they go round the
supermarket, but instead, were notes and moments that specifically needed to be worked through. It
has become apparent that one of the most exiting and challenging aspects of this script is that in
each scene very little is premeditated it all arises and is revealed right in front of us. As a result, in
rehearsals, to achieve that spontaneity, we have to be very clear about the journey and shape within
the scenes from start to finish. It keeps us and will no doubt keep the audience on their toes too.
The week continued with rehearsing scenes from Act Two as next week we shall kick off by running
that Act before doing a run of the entire play towards the end of the week. Having seen snippets of
the costumes, props, and a run of Act One we wait with baited breath to see Reasons To Be Pretty in
all its glory. The play may well be a tale of unsyncronized passions but, as the clocks go back and
winter approaches we are increasingly getting in sync, staying tight and bringing new light to the play
each day.

Do have a look on the Almeida website (www.almeida.co.uk) for our trailer if you get the chance.
There are some snippets from the monologues in the play and it gives you a sneaky preview where
you can meet these rich characters up close and personal!

41 Resource Pack: Reasons To Be Pretty


In the Rehearsal Room
Week 5
Our final week of rehearsals is upon us and we are
teetering on the edge of getting this show on the
road!

As planned, the week started with a run of Act Two


before spending the rest of the week running the play
as a whole and working through numerous items on
the shopping lists. The very first run was a delight
to watch and its thrilling to see the play in its
entirety and to really be able to tune in with each
characters journey. Only when all the scenes are
patched together can we get the full impression of
how the play is constructed and how each scene
influences and colours the next. Having watched the
scenes in isolation for the past four weeks it is easy
to forget how this energy from running the play can
propel it and push it further. Its also a chance for the
whole cast to watch scenes which they are not in and
therefore unite elements in their characters story
really useful.

Its funny to think we will be moving out of our


rehearsal room next week. Its become very homely!
The rehearsal room is a sacred space and it feels Tom Burke in rehearsal
safe; a place where offerings can be made and risks Photo: Matt Humphrey
can be taken in a supportive environment. By having
even a small invited audience to our run throughs
(made up of our design team and members of the
extended Almeida family) was nerve wracking for the
actors. However, to have had friendly faces and an
audience response be it laughter or gasps acted
as a real boost and was very encouraging. Not only When I start dating
was our mini audience keen to see whats been going again I think Ill be less
on in rehearsals, it is vital that in particular our
judgemental about what a
design team and stage management, can come to
see what the play looks and feels like before our tech person is like.
week begins. Ultimately, this will help their
understanding of how the design can enhance and Greg
support the play, along with suggesting to the cast Gregs Monologue
how the set could be used.

Behind the scenes, the programme for the show is


almost ready for print, the set has been built and the
costumes and props are being sourced and sown. To
nab a line from the play, courtesy of Steph, We are
right where we should be. Theres a tingling mix of
excitement and nerves as we all prepare to move and
set up in our new home at the theatre down the
road. As My City comes to a close and the set is
deconstructed, a new path is paved for Reasons To Be
Pretty and the transformation of the Almeida will take
place over the weekend as our set is installed and the
lights are rigged. We cant wait!

Resource Pack: Reasons To Be Pretty 42


Beauty Beauty is defined as: the quality or aggregate of qualities in a person or object
that gives pleasure to the senses or pleasurably exalts the mind or spirit. But
what is the history of the concept of beauty, and what does it mean for human
physical attractiveness?
The concept of beauty is studied as part of culture and the visual arts, sociology, social psychology
and aesthetics. An ideal beauty is an entity which is admired for its aesthetic perfection, and has
features widely recognized to be aspired to by that particular culture. There is commonly an
interpretative element of the the experience of beauty, as a given object or feature seen as in balance
and harmony with nature; this evokes feelings of attraction and emotional well-being in the onlooker.
However, this is a highly subjective experience and a subject of beauty may also be something that
resonates with an individuals persons experience hence the common phrase beauty is in the eye
of the beholder.

A History of Beauty
Trends and fashions in culture and aesthetics have also determined what society deems the
conventional concept of beauty, and the ideal beauty varies accordingly. However, although styles
vary strongly across different cultures, research has found that there are a number of definite
similarities in the human perception of beauty, and the standards of attractiveness across different
genders and cultures do not vary significantly at their base level. Primarily, symmetry is a key
determinant in the human perception of beauty biologically, this may be because it innately
suggests a lack of genetic or acquired defects. Whilst human beauty may be considered to be a
composite of both internal and external qualities, historically, common traits of beauty feature
humans who are relatively young, with smooth skin and well-proportioned, regular physiques.

The earliest Western theories of beauty date back to the early Greek philosophers, such as Pythagoras
and this period can still be said to define contemporary notiong of male and female beauty in
western civilization. Pythagoras is now best known for his work on geometry, but he early on
identified a strong link between mathematics and beauty; it was he who explored the golden ratio,
finding that objects that fitted into this ratio were innately more identifiable as beautiful than those
that did not. Other philosophers also saw beauty as an aspirational quality of perfection: Plato held
beauty to be the Idea above all other Ideas, and Aristotle linked beauty directly to the concept of
virtue.

In Europe, the Renaissance period saw the rediscovery of many of these ancient texts, and also works
of art from the Ancient Greek period, depicting visions of the ideal beauty as proposed by its
philosophers. This led to a re-adoption of what became known as the classical ideal. However, in the
Gothic period, this classical concept of beauty was rejected as sinful, as it was believed that only God
could possess true beauty, whereas man is marred by original sin. This was in turn rejected as
barbaric by Renaissance artists and disagreement between the two schools of thought lasted until the
19th Century. The Romantic period of the 19th Century saw artists, writers and philosophers
increasingly interested in the concept of the true nature of beauty, looking at differences between its
classical meaning and the notion of the sublime. The concept of sublime sought to draw a line
under the argument between Renaissance and Gothic artists, as sublime did not rely on symmetry or
the same mathematical standards as classical beauty thus Gothic art could also be described as
aesthetically beautiful, albeit in the sublime category not the classical. Also in the 19th Century, the
scientific world also took an interest in the biological components of beauty, focusing on the concept
of averageness. Charles Darwin was a pioneer in researching the theory of averageness, as he saw it
as a logical evolutionary reason why humans would choose a mate with predominantly average (or
common) features.

The 20th Century saw artists turning away from all established notions of beauty, and towards an anti-
aesthetic, or drawn to the concept of ugliness and physical asymmetry, largely propagated by the
post-modernist movement. However, in recent years, many thinkers and philosophers have returned

43 Resource Pack: Reasons To Be Pretty


Beauty
Billie Piper in rehearsal
Photo: Matt Humphrey

to the idea of beauty as ripe for exploration as an important human value. As science and visual
technologies have developed, scientists have analysed the physical proportions of beauty using
computer programmes designed to distill common traits. An important part of determining physical
beauty is the notion of averageness, and it has been found that when images of human faces are
merged together to form a composite image, the result is that the averaged face is closer in
perception to ideal beauty. It has also been found that people respond more positively towards
computer-generated mathematical average faces than individual faces.

In any case, the notion of beauty has always been an active force in determining human societys
cultural and aesthetic values, with human beauty a common depiction in popular culture and high art
alike.

Human Beauty and Physical Attractiveness


Physical attractiveness is, technically, just an element of the concept of classical beauty, but
commonly is a byword for beauty writ large. Physical attractiveness is that in a persons physical
make-up that is deemed to be aesthetically pleasing, and implies an element of sexual attraction or
desire though this is not always applicable, as humans can also perceive individuals as physically
attractive without any element of sexual desire. However, in either circumstance, humans commonly
are seen to subconsciously attribute positive characteristics, such as integrity, virtue and intelligence,
to those who appear physically attractive. Physical attractiveness is a key benchmark common to all
human cultures, and its perception can have a major influence on how people are judged in
employment, social opportunities, friendship and sexual as well as long-term relationships.

Many features are considered both attractive in men and women, and general patterns also have been
found to cross cultures and ethnicities. In both cases, symmetry of the face is highly significant. It is
thought that symmetry and its perfection implies healthy genetic quality. Biologically appeals to
humans seeking a mate as a good inheritance in producing offspring. As a rule, research has shown
that men additionally tend to be attracted to women with a balanced physique, including full breasts
and lips, clear eyes, smooth skin and a low waist to hip ratio. They are also attracted by youthful
features, longer hair and those shorter in height to them. Conversely, women are attracted to men

Resource Pack: Reasons To Be Pretty 44


taller than themselves, with broad shoulders, V-shaped torso and a narrow waist. Facial dimorphism,
The Golden Ratio the exhibition of traditionally male features, associated with male puberty and exposure to
testosterone, is also an important determinant of male sexual attractiveness this means broad
cheekbones, chiseled jawline and strong or developed brow. Body Mass Index is one area where
cultures differ in terms of their perceived physical attractiveness. The Western ideal tends towards
thinness in women and athleticism in men, however many other cultures idealise a plumper figure. It
is also thought that, particularly in Western societies, women overestimate the value men place on a
thin figure, as studies suggest that most men prefer women with an average body size. However, it is
now speculated that thinness as a beauty standard is now a key way in which women judge each
other, seen as a sign of independence, strength and high achievement.

Socially, perception of attractiveness between the two sexes has not increased or decreased
proportionally. Rather, modernity has put increased emphasis on the perception of female
attractiveness, often seen in Western civilizations to be driven by a male gaze in the popular media
(especially through feminist readings of film and photography) and the increased objectification of
women that results.

The Golden Ratio and Beauty


Whilst it is difficult for anyone to define the perfectly beautiful face, scientists have indeed set down
the standards of beauty by narrowing it down to a simple mathematical ratio, of 1:1.618, otherwise
known as the Golden Ratio, Phi or the Divine Proportion. According to the formula, the Golden Ratio
applies to the following proportions:

1. the width of the mouth to the width of the cheek


2. the width of the nose to the width of the cheek
3. the width of the nose to the width of the mouth.

These facial proportions have been


found to be universal regardless of
raced, sex and age. This formula has
been consistently found in all
objects, not just the human face,
that are considered beautiful. In
mathematics, the Fibonacci
Sequence is the whole-number
system to approximate the Golden
Ratio. The Golden Ratio dates back
to the Ancient Greeks and the work
of Pythagoras on the link between
beauty and mathematics.

In art, the Golden Ratio is often


associated with the work of
Leonardo da Vinci, in particular with
his Mona Lisa. Many scholars have
claimed that the face of the Mona
Lisa directly exhibits the proportions
of the Golden Ratio. Da Vinci was
also a close friend of the writer Luca This image of American actress Jessica Alba shows the Golden Ratio in
Pacioli, whose seminal work on the proportions on her face.
Golden Ratio, entitled Divina
Proportione (divine proportions) was published in 1509.

45 Resource Pack: Reasons To Be Pretty


Scopophilia and The Gaze
Scopophilia literally means love of watching, derived from the Greek participles
scopo- (related to watching) and -philia (love of ). Perceptions of physical
attractiveness have a root in the human desire to look at, and experience
pleasure from, people and objects.
Psychoanalysts Jacques Lacan and Otto Fenichel were key in exploring the pathological human
tendency towards scopophilia. From the 1970s, the term was borrowed by cinema psychoanalysts to
describe the pleasures and other unconscious processes occurring in spectators when they watch
films. Voyeurism is a more widely used synonym for scopophilia, although it may have rather more
direct sexual implications. Voyeurism means deriving gratification from observing others in secret.
Often the object of voyeurism is undressed or engaged in some kind of sexual or illicit activity. The key
factor in voyeurism is that the voyeur does not interact personally with the person being observed. The
phrase Peeping Tom, used to describe voyeurs, originates from the legend of the man who illicitly
looked at the naked Lady Godiva during her ride.

Pornography is the archetypal medium of voyeuristic desires, however much of the world of
advertising draws on the same objectification. The proliferation of internet webcams, mobile video
devises and the huge ongoing popularity of reality television (some even using CCTV footage as part of
their narratives) have created a new cultural 21st Century arena of scopophilia. Big Brother is arguably
the most voyeuristic of all reality television, and links back into the series title, taken from George
Orwells 1984, a critique of the controlling power of the state via constant surveillance, and resulting
restriction of freedom of thought and speech.

Film-making and film-viewing have long been analysed as voyeuristic practices, as can also be seen in
the act of theatregoing. Traditionally, the movie viewer (or theatregoer) sits in the dark and observes
the activities of people on a screen (figured as a window) who appear to be unaware of being watched.
Horror films in particular are strongly voyeuristic, in that they characteristically identify the viewer with
the point of view of the monster. Alfred Hitchcock employed voyeurism and the gaze as both core
elements of his technique as well as key themes in his film, and particularly in his casting of attractive
(often blonde) female characters. The most direct treatment of voyeurism is in Rear Window, where the
main characters are a photographer and a fashion model, who together spend days spying on their
neighbours whom they suspect of having committed a murder through binoculars from their
apartment window. A key line in the film, we've become a race of peeping toms, marks a direct link
with photography and scopophilia, drawing attention to the viewer as direct consumer of voyeurism.

According to the feminist film theory, the gaze is about not just the subject matter of the film or the
watching of it, but about the very cinematic apparatus - the camera itself as well as its operator. The
male gaze is seen to be dominant in Hollywood film in particular, although much American
mainstream television can be seen to bear similar hallmarks. This largely reflects - or reinforces - an
American societal preoccupation with physical appearance, particularly in women (beauty and
slimness), but not excepting men (athleticism and physical fitness). The gaze suggests the apparatus
(the gazer) is coded innately male, with the female (the gazed upon) becoming the passive object. In
short, it suggests that in both subject matter and techniques of filming, movies encapsulate the desire
of men to look at women. Women tend to become objectified through the process, with the emphasis
on the looking placing emphasis on the looked at, and reinforcing the importance of physical
appearance and attractiveness in the value of the objectified woman.

Objectification is an offshoot of scopophilia and the gaze. The person gazed at is objectified treated
as an object whose sole value is to be enjoyed or possessed by the voyeur. Objectification, particularly
of women, is a common basis of ethical objections to voyeuristic practices, including the overly
sexualised depictions of women in mainstream media. However, recent research suggests that females
are becoming increasingly susceptible to viewing other females through a male gaze, and placing more
emphasis on a female perception of beauty and personal value through physical perfection. A major
objection to this objectification, whether by males or females, or for males or females, because it is
seen to devalue the humanity of the person.

Resource Pack: Reasons To Be Pretty 46


Reasons To Be Pretty deals with a number of themes that are
Practical Exercises particularly interesting to explore in the classroom, for example:
image, relationships and masculinity. Below are just a few suggested
exercises for use in lesson time to investigate these themes in further
depth.
THEME: HEARSAY
Reasons To Be Pretty shows us the fall-out from an overheard remark made by a boyfriend about his
girlfriend. She takes it as an insult, although this is not how he intended it to be taken. The clever
thing is that we as an audience never hear the insult, we just see the consequences. The group should
aim to remember these games when watching the play: Chinese Whispers and the way stories change
each time they are repeated, and how it feels to insult someone.

Exercise 1: Chinese Whispers


Duration: 5 minutes
Aim: To introduce the idea of gossip and second-hand information, and to develop a group dynamic.

Practical Exercise: Standing in a circle, select one member of the group to whisper a phrase to the
person next to them, who will in turn pass on what they have heard, and so on, in the same direction
round the circle. Once the last person has heard the whispered message, they should say it out loud.
But does the original message match what was overheard at the end? The person choosing the
original message should pick a phrase or term related to physical appearance, though should not be a
personal or insulting comment.

Evaluate: Were the messages the same at the start and the finish? Go back round the circle and try to
identify where the message changed. What does this tell us about second- and third-hand
information?

Exercise 2: Insults
Duration: 10-15 minutes
Aim: To act as an ice-breaker, a second warm up, and to physically explore the idea of insulting
behaviour from the play, both enacted and interpreted.

Practical Exercise: Participants should stand in a circle. Two volunteers should be chosen, and they
should face opposite each other in the centre of the circle. The aim of the game is to insult your
opponent, in the most exaggerated fashion possible. You may want to demonstrate this. Look to keep
the insults silly and non-personal, rather than horrible. Each insult should seek to outwit the previous
one. The rest of the group can decide who they think gave the better insults. Aim to keep each duel
short, so that each person in the group can have a go.

Secondly, repeat this exercise but instead of using insults, the aim of the game is now to give the
most over-the-top compliments you can think of.

Evaluate: How did each round make you feel? Exhilarated? Embarrassed? Shallow? Guilty? Dishonest?
Ask participants to imagine how they might feel if, as Steph, they overheard someone they cared
about making a disparaging remark about them. What is the dramatic potential of insults - how can
they be used for dramatic (tragic, comedic) effect? Do you think Reasons To Be Pretty is more comedy
or tragedy?

THEME: BEAUTY AND IMAGE


Reasons To Be Pretty examines the concept of beauty, and the difference between the way others see

47 Resource Pack: Reasons To Be Pretty


Practical Exercises
us, and how we feel about ourselves inside. When youre watching the play, look for moments where
characters are feeling very different form the way others perceive them.

Exercise 3: Beauty and Image


Duration: 10-15 minutes
Aim: To encourage the group to consider the relationship between how others perceive us and how
we feel about ourselves inside, a key theme of Reasons To Be Pretty.

Practical Exercise: Divide the group into pairs. In each pair, both participants are playing the same
character, but one represents the way that character thinks about them, and one is playing the image
that other people see. For example a glamour model who is incredibly self conscious, or the elephant
man who is incredibly intelligent and kind. The pairs should create a frozen tableau image that
represents the two sides of this character. Share these images back and invite the rest of the group to
suggest what each tableau might represent.

In the same pairs, participants should now create a short scene in which the character they are
playing has fallen over in the street - we need to see the two very different responses that character
has, both the internal and the external. Share these scenes back and ask the rest of the group to make
observations.

Evaluate: What aspects are most easy to portray - internal or external? Why might this be? Which pairs
were most successful at portraying both sides of their characters? Why might that be? Ask the group
to look out for the characters in Reasons To Be Pretty when they watch the play, and consider which
aspects of their personality are internal and external.

Exercise 4: Image, Relationships and Chinese Whispers


Duration: 15-20 minutes
Aim: In a continuation of the previous exercise, this asks the group to develop their character, and
consider how relationships can be affected by arguments and confrontation.
Practical Exercise: Put the pairs from the previous exercises into larger groups of six (three pairs,
three different characters). In the play, everything that happens stems from someone telling their
friend that they overheard her boyfriend insulting her. Each group of six is going to create a scene that

Resource Pack: Reasons To Be Pretty 48


includes two friends and a boyfriend or girlfriend - the friends are confronting the boyfriend / girlfriend
Practical Exercises about an alleged insult that has been overheard. Remember, each character is still played by two
people, portraying the internal and external reactions, so the group should think about the way each
different character reacts in this situation, and how they interact with each other. The internal /
external reactions should respond to each other and work together to keep the character consistent.
Share the short scenes back to the group.

Evaluation: How did the characters develop from the previous exercise? What do we learn about
characters when we see them reacting with others? What differences did you observe between the
reactions of the internal and external personalities? Which was most effective at conveying a) emotion
and b) the story?

THEME: MASCULINITY
Neil LaBute has said that he often writes male characters who, through the course of the play, do a lot
of growing up, which is certainly true for one of the characters, Greg, in Reasons To Be Pretty.

Exercise 5: Masculinity - Men Growing Up Into Adults


Duration: 10-15 minutes
Aim: To think about what makes a good or bad teacher, and how they can be inspiring.

Practical Exercise: In groups of four or five, participants will devise a short short piece of theatre that
shows us a character growing up, through four or five life stages respectively. You can only use a
maximum of one line of dialogue per character. Encourage the group to think creatively about the
transitions between the life stages, using their full physicality as well as the dialogue - as well as
thinking about the evolution of the male/masculine image over history. As a secondary exercise, you
could divide each group of five into different ages of time, such as prehistoric, Victorian, contemporary
modern and futuristic. Ask the group to consider what masculinity looks like at these different points
in time. Share these scenes back.

Evaluation: What were the similarities between the ageing process in the different groups scenes?
What common traits were portrayed? Were there any stereotypes that the group felt hard to avoid? In
terms of the exercise set at different ages, what outside factors affected physical portrayal?

Exercise 6: Exploring Text


Duration: 30-45 minutes
Aim: To examine the unique style of the way Neil LaBute writes dialogue, and how his writing develops
plot and ideas. To allow participants engage with the script of Reasons To Be Pretty, raising points to
watch out for when watching the play.
You will need: Multiple copies of the script extracts from Reasons To Be Pretty on pages XX. Please
note: some of the script extracts contain strong language, and teacher discretion is advised.

Practical Exercise: In small groups, read through the extracts from the play, before choosing a short
section to stage. Consider the different techniques you can employ in your performance, and also think
about not over dramatising it as you present it. Share these back. Please note: a slash ( / ) in the
dialogue indicates an overlap of speech, where the next line of dialogue should begin.

Evaluation: Neil LaButes writing is very dialogue-led. What do you notice about Neil LaButes dialogue
on the page? What opportunities and challenges does it present to the performer? What worked well in
staging and what less so? Ask students to think about the scene they performed when watching the
play at the Almeida Theatre.

49 Resource Pack: Reasons To Be Pretty


Reasons To Be Pretty Script Extract #1

Script Extract #1
(from Scene 1)

STEPH What did you say that she heard and then called me about?/ Hmmm? What?

GREG I didnt/ God

STEPH Im telling you the truth about what Ill do to you. I am.

GREG Steph

STEPH Greg

GREG I really didnt say anything! (BEAT) Its not, I mean, did she say that I? What?

STEPH You dont remember? Hmm?

GREG No. I mean, I was talking to Kent and we were laughing about stuff, about, like, I
dunnowork and how this new guy whos a real goof has been begging us to join our
baseball team so were joking about what ever and.thats all./ Come on, Steph, you
know how we are when we get

STEPH Yeah?/ What?

GREG Just talking!! Jesus. Going on about our lives & situations and/ Nothing! Its no big
deal, anything we said, and if she is gonna call you every time I open up my mouth
over at their place, then Im never gonna go there again! Alright? Im not

STEPH And?/ Wow, bet shell be crushed.

GREG Im just sayingIm sick of her acting like a cop even when shes off-duty. She isnt
one, ok, shes not./ Shes aits basically like being a hall monitor.

STEPH Fine then./ And so youre talking

GREG Honey, come ondont be all

STEPH No, tell me. Tell me what you said.

GREG I didnt say any

STEPH About me. You said it loud enough for her to hear it, for her to repeat it to me in
complete detailverbatim, as you like to call itso you can say it to my face

GREG Ohfuck

STEPH Nope, that wasnt it. (BEAT) Go on.

GREG Stephanie, stop it

STEPH You want me to say it? How bout if we do it that wayI say it to you and you tell me
if its true or not?

GREG Im not, nothats stupid, so no.

Resource Pack: Reasons To Be Pretty 50


STEPH You sure? Maybe its easier that way - treat you like a preschooler.
Script Extract #1 GREG I dont need anything to be easier, okay, I dontlook, Im not scared of you or about
anything I said because it wasnt a big deal; wed had a few beers and maybe were a
bit loud out in the garage where we were talking, but I didnt sayshit.

STEPH She was in the kitchen, Greg. Door to the kitchen was open. Voices travel. Theyre
made up of sound, case you didnt know

GREG Yeah, Im down with the basic scientific principles, Steph, thanks very much.

STEPH And so shes cooking up some ground beef for tacos on the stove and she hears you,
plain as day, going on about me and there is no doubt in her mindthats none, no
doubt of any kindthat you said exactly what she repeated to me

GREG I see. (BEAT) Over the sound of hot meat she can hear me talking?

STEPH awwwww, youre so/ You asshole

GREG Im just asking!/ Dont I get to ask any shit here or is it just a one-sided deal we got
going now?

STEPH Dont be a complete dick, alright? Dont. I know thats your soup of the jour but,
please, just give me a little

GREG Fine! So she can hear me talkingshes suddenly like Wonder Woman or something
and from an entire room away she hears me and what Im saying to Kent as were out
there banging away on his Buick. Is that it?

STEPH You mean the Bionic Woman, not Wonder Womanwho had various powers but
hearing wasnt one of emI mean, of course she could hear, she wasnt deaf, but not
in any special way. The Bionic Woman had the super hearingsmart guy

GREG Whatever! You know what I mean

STEPH I do, yeah, thats why I just corrected you on it./ Bionic Woman. Lindsay Wagner.

GREG Great./ Thanks.

STEPH Doesnt matter, youre just deflecting it againyes, she heard you guys, clear as day./
Or a bell, or whatever

GREG Fine./ Okay, and? And?

STEPH What?

GREG Whatd she say? I mean, that I said?

STEPH Oh, so now you want me to say it

GREG If you need to so bad

STEPH I thought you didnt want me to, thought you said it was stupid.

GREG That was before

51 Resource Pack: Reasons To Be Pretty


Reasons To Be Pretty Script Extract #2

Script Extract #2
(from Scene 2)

GREG I dunno. (MOVES TOWARD HER) Look, Carly, why'd you have to do that? Call Steph
and make some big ol'...

CARLY What? I didn't do anything...

GREG ...yeah, uh-huh, she's all...

CARLY ...I just...

GREG You got her totally worked up and, and, and she's completely pissed, and now I can't
even get her to take my...

CARLY I'm sorry, but...she called me so you're the one with a problem obviously.

GREG What?

CARLY She did. On her way to work.

GREG She called you?

CARLY Yes. Twice./ The second time right from the parking lot of Super Cuts...

GREG Really?/ Why? I mean...

CARLY Because we're friends, Greg. Because she needed someone to talk to today, and...

GREG Yeah, but...wait...

CARLY ...because I would never say such a mean and horrible thing to her, that's why.

GREG Oh. (BEAT) I actually meant the first...

CARLY So, yeah, she rang me up and we chatted, like friends do. We talked. (BEAT) About
you, mostly.

GREG And--I mean, then, what'd she say? To me?

CARLY She didn't say anything to you--it was to me, remember? Called me at home.

GREG Right, right, that's what I meant...

CARLY She said stuff to me. About you. Not very nice stuff, either. She talked shit about
you, if you really wanna know. Ok?

GREG Great.

CARLY Yeah, lots of shit and cried a little...

GREG ...come on...

CARLY I'm not kidding! (BEAT) Said she even put in her notice, so...there. Happy?

Resource Pack: Reasons To Be Pretty 52


Script Extract #2 GREG What?/ Really?

CARLY Yep./ I'm not making stuff up to delight and entertain you. Your girlfriend cried on the
phone to me and it doesn't matter who called who. It doesn't--she's not mad because
her best friend had the...guts to tell her the truth; she is upset because of the things
you've said about her...

GREG Thing! One thing I said, and it wasn't a, like, some big...Godamnit, why'd you tell her?
Huh? Why?!

CARLY Why'd you say it?! Right back at you, ok? Why would you ever say a thing like that
about someone...and particularly a person you supposedly love. (BEAT) I'm sorry but
nobody, no-body, even the most clueless of guys, is gonna make that kind of mistake.
You were being honest...

GREG No, it wasn't meant to be a--I was saying a loving thing! (LOOKS AT CARLY)

CARLY Oh, really...

GREG I was.

CARLY Well, I'd send flowers next time instead, maybe...'cause your communication skills
suck./ The message was lost.

GREG Fine./ Whatever.

53 Resource Pack: Reasons To Be Pretty


Reasons To Be Pretty Script Extract #3

Script Extract #3
(from Scene 7)

GREG ...look, about that...you're...

KENT Yeah?

GREG I don't think I can, I mean, don't ask me to help out with that any more, ok?

KENT What?

GREG Your secrets there, whatever you're doing with that girl.

KENT Crystal.

GREG Yes, her.

KENT She's got a name, Greg...even if she does like taking pictures of my cock.

GREG That's...I really never needed to know a fact like that, Kent.

KENT Yeah, but now you do...and I take 'em of her, too./ Loads of 'em.

GREG Super./ Hmmm. Didn't even know she had a cock. Learn a little something every day.

KENT Ha! 'S not really that funny, dude...

GREG Well...anyhow, don't ask me to do that again, alright? 'Cause I'm... I can't. I just...

KENT You mean you won't.

GREG No, I'm saying...yeah, maybe. Won't.

KENT Right, 'cause of course you can--you can do most anything you want, so it stands to
reason that you could if you wanted to. If you had to help your friend, or, like, felt
inclined to, then you could without any problems...so you won't do it, that's what
you're really saying./ You will not.

GREG O-kay./ Yes.

KENT I see...

GREG I just, you know...I felt like shit when I did that to Carly. Even though we don't always
get along--it was crappy, it was, and I don't wanna be that guy to her any more,
alright?/ I'm--this isn't being judgemental or saying anything about your lifestyle or
whatnot, I'm just saying it needs to quit for me. Being that guy.

KENT Hey, fine./ I get it.

GREG Then good.

KENT Whatever you gotta do./ Or not.

GREG Right./ Yep.

Resource Pack: Reasons To Be Pretty 54


Script Extract #3 KENT

GREG
Yep. (BEAT) I mean, you're in it now, but you don't have to do any more if it bugs you
so much...

What does that mean? 'In it?'

KENT Nothing.

GREG No, seriously, what?

KENT Just that, you know...you helped make it happen, the first place./ When I brought it
up...yes...

GREG No, I didn't./ No...

KENT Yeah, you said, 'go for it' when we were talking in the break room./ I remember it
specifically, and so that's what I did...

GREG But...no, that was.../ That was before...

KENT And you went out to dinner with us, lied to my wife about it, practically took the
pictures for us--but if you suddenly got a case of the conscience, then fine.

GREG Look, you do what you want--your life's a different thing than mine and if you can do
that, realistically live with yourself after you act that way, then it's ok...

KENT Hey, man, thanks, I really appreciate you giving me your permission here...

GREG I'm just saying...it's...

KENT And I'm saying this: don't be such a lump of shit, okay?/ Not some high-minded guy
who sits in judgement on his friends...

GREG Look.../ I'm not.

KENT That's exactly what you're doing!

GREG No, Kent, I'm not, I'm saying that I just can't be a party to lying right now, to a bunch
of secrets or that sorta deal where I'm, I'm, I'm put in that position...

KENT Whatever, man.

55 Resource Pack: Reasons To Be Pretty


Almeida
Projects

Reasons To Be Pretty Almeida Projects is the Almeida Theatres


Almeida Projects Resource Pack creative learning programme.
Written and designed by Charlie Payne, Inspired by the Almeida Theatres productions, Almeida Projects delivers a
with contributions from Natalie range of high quality, innovative activities to make the theatre accessible to
Mitchell, Stephanie Bell and Natasha young people, inspire them creatively and encourage an exploration of the
Nixon. power and potential of theatre.
Almeida Projects provides an active, creative link between our
Reasons To Be Pretty by Neil LaBute was theatre and its audience, more specifically an audience that may
produced at the Almeida Theatre 10 not have considered that the theatre might not be for them.
November 2011 - 14 January 2012.
Our aim is to act as a catalyst to their energies, to their hunger to
The information in this Resource Pack participate - celebrating the creativity of young people in the best way
is correct at the time of going to Press. we know how: by offering them our experience, our expertise and
All rights reserved. Almeida Theatre, our unique theatre.
Published November 2011. Michael Attenborough
Artistic Director
The Almeida Theatre is a Registered Almeida Projects work draws on all aspects of theatre, working with
Charity No. 282167. The Almeida thousands of people each year, and includes: work in partnership with local
Theatre Company Limited, Almeida schools; the Young Friend of the Almeida scheme; and a subsidised ticket
Street, London N1 1TA. Use of this scheme for schools. For more information please visit our website.
Almeida Projects Resource Pack is
authorised in connection with the
Almeida Projects work at the Almeida
almeida.co.uk/education
Theatre. Any further use in any form Almeida Projects is supported by: .
must be approved by the creators. The Aspen Tamara Ingram
copyright of all original material Bank of America Merrill Lynch Jack & Linda Keenan
remains with the creators. The Nol Coward Foundation Charles & Nicky Manby
Elm Capital Associates Ltd Georgia Oetker
Almeida Projects photography: Ludovic The Peter Harrison Foundation Christopher Rodrigues
Islington Council Nicola Stanhope
des Cognets, Lucy Cullen.
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The Rayne Foundation Simon & Glennie Weil
Mrs Sue Baring
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