Nude, Hope Theatre, London ★★★

Reviewed for Musical Theatre Review:

A bare cube, all fluorescent edges, and grey, geometric furniture, is the setting for Paul Hewitt’s one act piece, Nude, that follows the romantic life of a couple, and explores how much of their life events are dictated by fate.

Moving around the exterior of the cube, the poetic Fate (Roshni Rathore) commentates on the man and woman she helps push together, as their relationship progresses from the initial meeting, through illness and infidelity. But the narrator is far from a passive role: she steps into the cube to propel the couple’s relationships into new directions, then moves out to observe the consequences with us, the audience.

The couple, Edward Nash and Michelle Fahrenheim, are helped by a script that fizzes at the prospect of their first, clumsy dates, through to a life of secure monogamy – at which point Fate feels she must step in again. It is these opening moments which work best, with Nash and Fahrenheim interacting believably. As events progress, though, the wry amusement and personal chemistry give way to longer, more intense monologues and a reduction in personal interactions. As the progression of the man and woman’s lives move into dealing with illness, the play loses the dynamic feel of its opening scenes, moving into a much more brooding, contemplative narrative.

Throughout, Rathore’s poetic lines have a soothing, almost musical feel that is weakened only by a delivery that has a tendency to flatten the emotional peaks and troughs that her words suggest. In contrast, Fahrenheim – who comes to dominate the play’s second half – takes her long speeches and successfully manages to deliver them from the heart rather than the head.

A couple of moments where all three cast members break into song suggests some form of camaraderie and collusion between the couple and Fate. Ultimately, Fate is as intrigued and frustrated with human foibles as any audience, but is watching a story that has been played out in so many dramas that have come before. And while director Ian Nicholson has crafted an intriguing use of space, one can’t help but feel that it would have benefited from a story which had something more original to say.