Small stage, big show for Nasty Shadows’ The Art of Success

9 11 2012

by Nicole Vair

Black wooden cubes are scattered on the stage and what seems to be a live orgy is on display in the mini theatre at Saint John High School. The adults-only warning poster catches the eye of audience members as they enter the space. The Fredericton-based Nasty Shadows’ production of Nick Dear’s The Art of Success provides a thought-provoking performance with some interesting twists.

Director Scott Shannon does a great job at letting the audience absorb the show. An attachment to each character evolves during the performance and whether the audience likes what each character is revealing or not, it is up to them to decide.

Katie Malone plays Louisa, a prostitute who crosses the line and falls in love with one of her clients. However, this is not just any client. William Hogarth (Matthew Spinney) is a struggling artist who faces many obstacles on his journey of trying to find success in art. Malone as Louisa falls short compared to the rest of the cast. Everyone fits the mold of the performance and shapes the show into an attention-grabbing scene, but Malone draws the attention away from the script and the production. Instead of seeing Malone as Louisa, I am experiencing Malone trying to decide who Louisa is. Though this is distracting at times, she constantly remains present on stage and in each scene, which helps her character.

Each actor is essential within The Art of Success. The difficult script and subject matter cannot be taken lightly and everyone does an astonishing job of telling the story. Working in a small space can always prove to be a problem, but a small space is just what The Art of Success needs. The blocking keeps the story within reach and the audience has a grip of where the scene is being set at all times. If cut by fifteen minutes the show could be more effective, but the flow is constant and there are never lulls.

Minimalism is important at times where a simple thought or idea needs to come across. The Art of Success does a superb job at placing simplicity where needed. Elaborate ensembles of sexual commotion may catch your eye, but it is the moments of rest, the moments where you see art unfold on stage in silence that the show really comes together. It is in these moments where you forget about the shocking sight being performed and you think; “this is a beautiful thing.”

From orgies to those special silent moments, The Art of Success raises tough questions about life, art, and love. Everyone can relate in one way or another. This is what people enjoy, whether you are a regular theatregoer or not.

Watching life happen in peculiar ways is an entertaining fixation and The Art of Success allows audiences to experience this in an entertaining way.

The Art of Success ran Oct 26-28, 2012 at Theatre New Brunswick’s studio theatre in Fredericton, and Nov 2-3, 2012 at Saint John High School’s mini theatre, produced by Fredericton’s Nasty Shadows Theatre Co.



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