Review: Made Up

The potential for this show excited me. Written and directed by James Yarker, Made Up introduces the audience to Kate (played by Emily Holyoake), a young film actress who goes every morning to make-up artist Sue (Alexis Tuttle) who prepares her for her screen role that day. The concept of two women of different ages and experiences forced into close proximity in such an original setting was intriguing. Was it going to go down the route of a build-up of high tension in the confined space, or something more subtle with two private, and very separate, lives gradually revealed? It was to be the latter, but unfortunately with very little tension or conflict. There were  few well timed reveals as the story progressed; instead the approach of story sharing was matter of fact and blunt.

The hair and make-up, assisted by theatrical, film and TV make-up artist Andrew Whiteoak, were the great strengths of the show. Walking in, we saw on stage a dark dressing room framed by ropes of lights and adorned with an array of wigs and make-up paraphernalia. A live feed downstage projected Holyoake's changing face on to the back wall of the dressing room. The various transformations that Holyoake underwent were fascinating to watch and the show was an interesting reflection on the outward images we project. At times, I was content just watching the application of make-up in silence and pondering on the routines and rituals we go through, putting on the faces we show to the world.

The physical intimacy between two relative strangers created an interesting dynamic. I enjoyed some of the mundane conversation : the small talk and the chit chat that we all know so well. I felt like I was watching an awkward conversation I might have with my hairdresser, which worked well at the beginning. But this relationship didn’t really change for me. I was still wincing at the small talk even at the end. Despite Kate gushing to Sue telling her she needed her, I didn’t believe in the emotional intimacy. Kate as a character was fronting throughout, and it made it difficult to like her. Sue tells her she isn’t on show here (the make-up studio) , that it’s the only place she isn’t on show: but Kate sure fooled me. These supposedly private conversations were just another movie scene.

I found the lack of linearity in the story confusing. The piece was riddled with vignettes from other time frames and characters. The rolling cast of characters who reared their head from time to time included Kate’s agent, director, boyfriend, and mother, as well as Sue’s daughter and who I presumed to be her sister. This was made worse by the acted out clips of film scenes shot sporadically through the piece. I wasn’t always clear which character was speaking and think this partly down to the lack of variation in delivery. All the characters sounded the same.

Whilst the show did explore the pressures put on women in show business to have and carefully maintain their looks, it didn’t take a particularly good angle on it. It grated on me when Sue told Kate to never got out without her ‘foundation and lippy’ and the fact that Kate fakes a relationship for the cameras felt a little unnecessary. But perhaps that's show business.

© Katie Jackson 2016

Devised & Performed By
Emily Holyoake and Alexis Tuttle

Lighting Simon Bond
Video Oliver Clark
Additional Text Craig Stephens
Design Harry Trow
Music & Sound Nina West
Make-up Designer Andrew Whiteoak
Costume Kay Wilton
Director & Writer James Yarker

Presented by Stan's Cafe and Birmingham Repertory Theatre, Made Up runs at the Birmingham Rep until Saturday 21st May

Author's review: