Reasons to Be Pretty

Will Pyke in Reasons to be Pretty - Underground Productions. Image Supplied.
Will Pyke in Reasons to be Pretty – Underground Productions. Image Supplied.

Tell me I’m pretty and no goldfish will get hurt.

In Underground Productions’ most accessible work yet, Neil LaBute’s Reasons to Be Pretty explores society’s obsession with beauty. Centred around four young working class friends (who are also coupled up), the play follows the aftermath of a seemingly off-handed comment made by Greg about his girlfriend’s ‘regular’ looks compared to the new female colleague. This remark gets back to his girlfriend (Steph), via her best friend and Greg’s work colleague (Carly), which spurns the sudden breakup of their four-year relationship. The catalyst event also brings up questions surrounding friendship, trust, loyalty, and integrity, as each person in close quarters is touched by the ripple effect.

Mainly set in a warehouse break room, Dean Langton cleverly redesigned the Schonnel stage to fit both the actors and the audience onstage, making for a more intimate performance that the larger theatre would have diffused. The break room easily doubled as Greg and Steph’s house, with the symbolic change of entrance, while the café scene was set just off to the side of the main stage area, using a high-set table with stools.

Deftly directed by Emily Gilhome, the four-hander presents the battle of the sexes with humour, empathy, and a lot of expletives. The play boasts well-written dialogue, relatable scenes, and strong characters with capable actors to embody them.

Will Pyke played the poor sap Greg with natural ease. His character arc was interesting to watch – from a reed too easily bent by both his girlfriend and his cocky best friend, to a man of conscience and action.

Bronte Danae as Greg’s girlfriend/ex-girlfriend, Steph, was dynamic and engaging to watch. Not one to back down from a fight, she was forthright and even comedic during her moments of anger (and there was a lot of them). In fact, the comedy helped redeem her character from being almost unlikable. I do have to admit (and I do feel a tinge of betrayal to my own kind), that I did not feel as sympathetic toward Steph as I did Greg. While the play explores different sides of the battle of the sexes debate, I couldn’t help but feel sorry for Greg, who on the whole, was just a guy who said a dumb thing.

Adding to the cast is Lauren Steiner as Carly, the physically blessed security guard who laments that beauty can be as much a curse as a blessing. Steiner, being the catalyst to the situation by passing on the off-handed remark to her best friend, came out blazing with suffragette confidence and a dash of manipulation, also making her an unlikable character from the start. Watching the cracks start to appear in her vulnerable facade, allowed the audience to empathise and grow to love her. It’s a testament to good writing when an audience can be surprised by a character and change along with them.

Nicholas Ryan and Will Pyke in Reasons to be Pretty - Underground Productions. Image Supplied.
Nicholas Ryan and Will Pyke in Reasons to be Pretty – Underground Productions. Image Supplied.

Now Kent is a character we can really hate. Larrikin, bully, best buddy of Greg and husband to Carly, Kent is the friend you don’t need. He makes people cover for him, lie, and say things they don’t really mean (which will come back to bite them later), just to appease him. Nicholas Ryan did a suburb job in bringing to life this totally hateable character.

Although the story revolves around a serious issue with characters behaving badly, it is also a story of redemption, and let’s not forget that it is actually very funny. The, ‘How do I hate thee? Let me count the ways’ scene where Steph humiliates Greg in front of an ambushed café crowd, was comically cringe-worthy, and the lobby scene between Greg and Steph, laden with unexpressed emotion was very touching.

Underground Productions has provided a very satisfying night at the theatre by presenting a highly relevant play that touches on most of our basic emotions. LaBute’s dramady was not only filled with wit, humour, and heart, but had something to say, while reminding us of our own humanity.

Reasons to Be Pretty by Underground Productions ran till 25th October at the Schonell Theatre, UQ.

For more information about Underground Productions, visit the website:

Bobbi-Lea Dionysius

Bobbi-Lea is's QLD Co-ordinator, writer, reviewer, and reporter. She is also an actor, presenter, and theatre/film producer for Drama Queen Productions in Brisbane. Bobbi-Lea holds a Degree in Music Theatre as well as a Degree in Film & TV, and is currently doing her Masters in Screen Production.

Bobbi-Lea Dionysius

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