The Internet Theater Magazine of Reviews, Features, Annotated Listings








Etcetera and
Short Term Listings


NYC Restaurants


New Jersey







Free Updates
Writing for Us
A CurtainUp London London Review
Reasons to be Pretty

I might be able to overlook your general bugheadedness if I thought the truth was on its way somehow. — Steph
Reasons to be Pretty
Tom Burke as Greg and Siân Brooke as Steph
(Photo: Keith Pattison)
The last of Neil LaBute trilogy about how we look and relationships opens in London where it all started with Rachel Weisz and Paul Rudd in The Shape of Things . In between we had Fat Pig in the West End. Michael Attenborough the London director has described Reasons to be Pretty as LaBute’s most tender play.

The play opens with a major argument between Greg (Tom Burke) and his live in girlfriend Steph (Siân Brooke). It seems that Steph has been told by Carly (Billie Piper) what she overheard Greg say about Steph when talking to his workmate Kent (Kieran Bew). For several minutes Greg refuses to discuss what he said or denies that it happened at all while Steph gets angrier and angrier and says many things she will come to regret. This scene is funny and painful at the same time as we watch the disintegration of a once happy relationship.

At his job in a supermarket warehouse, we see Greg working at night, having his lunch break in the middle of the night with the macho Kent, whose girlfriend is pregnant, but who talks incessantly about the body beautiful of another girl they work with. It is the kind of conversation that would have feminists walking out of the theatre were it not that we know LaBute is exposing this behaviour not commending it. I found myself asking whether men really do talk to each other like this? Greg and Steph meet to tie up the loose ends and Steph delivers a diatribe of Greg’s shortcomings. It is the full emasculating, hatchet job from an articulate woman.

In Act Two Greg bumps into Steph and she is conciliatory but Greg is as evasive as ever. He is asked by Carly if he knows anything about Kent cheating on her and he reassures her that Kent is not. The two men clash in a physical fight before the work baseball match in a caustic scene of Kent, the American Jock who sees sexual relations as an extension of competitive sport versus the altogether more likable Greg. “Beautiful women are like athletes – a couple of good years and then the knees go,” says Kent.

The performances are well balanced and convincing. Both men are unable to commit, the contemptible Kent because of his all consuming sexual drive, Greg because he hasn’t yet found a direction for his life, reading high brow novels during his lunch hour. Greg may be the all round nice guy but he never has the courage to ask Kent to reflect on his deceit.

Tom Burke injects an attractive humour into his scenes and Kieran Bew again shows his versatility after taking all the male roles in Knot of the Heart. Both women are unfulfilled, Carly pregnant and married to a cheat and Steph settling for someone for whom she has no real feelings. Billie Piper’s character, the security guard losing her figure with the advance of pregnancy, we eventually feel sorry for but it is her interference that starts the problem. Siân Brooke lets us see Steph’s vulnerability and insecurity.

Michael Attenborough’s direction is subtle and smooth helped by Soutra Gilmour’s magnificent trailer set which pivots to reveal various locations from Greg’s bedroom, to the works lunch room, to a mall cafe, to a smart restaurant, to the baseball scene.

For Elyse Sommer’s reviews of Reasons to be Pretty in New York, go here .

In the interval I was surrounded by male critics saying Siân Brooke was too pretty to play this part of the girl described by her boyfriend as “regular.” How interesting that they, known for their wit rather than their beauty, should fall into LaBute’s carefully laid trap!


Subscribe to our FREE email updates with a note from editor Elyse Sommer about additions to the website -- with main page hot links to the latest features posted at our numerous locations. To subscribe, E-mail:
put SUBSCRIBE CURTAINUP EMAIL UPDATE in the subject line and your full name and email address in the body of the message -- if you can spare a minute, tell us how you came to CurtainUp and from what part of the country.
Reasons to be Pretty
Written by Neil LaBute
Directed by Michael Attenborough

Starring: Tom Burke, Siân Brooke, Billie Piper, Kieran Bew
Designed by Soutra Gilmour
Lighting: Mark Henderson
Sound: Fergus O’Hare
Running time: Two hours 15 minutes with one interval
Box Office: 020 7359 4404
Booking to 14th January 2012
Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge based on 18th November 2011 performance at The Almeida, Almeida Street, London N1 1TA (Tube:the Angel, Islington)

Highlight one of the responses below and click "copy" or"CTRL+C"
  • I agree with the review of Reasons to be Pretty
  • I disagree with the review of Reasons to be Pretty
  • The review made me eager to see Reasons to be Pretty
Click on the address link E-mail:
Paste the highlighted text into the subject line (CTRL+ V):

Feel free to add detailed comments in the body of the email . . . also the names and emails of any friends to whom you'd like us to forward a copy of this review.

London Theatre Walks

Peter Ackroyd's  History of London: The Biography

London Sketchbook

tales from shakespeare
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
Click image to buy.
Our Review

©Copyright 2011, Elyse Sommer.
Information from this site may not be reproduced in print or online without specific permission from