Review – A Guide to Perfection, Sample Theatre Company, University of Northampton Flash Festival, Hazelrigg House, Northampton, 24th May 2017

Sample TheatreThere’s no end to the money that can be made from making people feel worthless about their appearance. Too fat? Too skinny? Too wrinkly? No style? Perfection is the goal, as you can see from countless magazines, TV programmes and advertisements. It’s no surprise, therefore, that an enterprising company would put together A Guide to Perfection, a residential course where people go to learn how to be more perfect in every aspect of their life. Selling us this dream, (and upselling the more expensive rooms) are two examples of perfection in the forms of April Lissimore and Samuel Littlewood; but, deep down, are they that perfect? Is perfection even possible?

Guide to PerfectionHe’s obsessed with his looks and the number of his Instagram likes. She’s obsessed with her weight and her daily calorie intake, so that she spends ages agonising over a muffin. It’s a spiral of vanity that can draw you in and drag you down. Inside, aren’t we much more like their tech operator, Kate, played by Florence Waite, who’s self-deprecating because of her low self-esteem, and knows there’s no point competing in this world of perfection. I know I gave up years ago. The characters gradually upset and disappoint themselves as they realise the distance they are from their dreams; nevertheless, with a big dollop of irony, they try to sell us the dream at the final sales pitch. My advice: don’t bother. We’re not buying.

April LissimoreIt’s a very clever idea for a performance piece and I liked how the set-up surprised us all on arriving in the studio, to discover it had been laid out cabaret-table style. It meant the audience could get a bit more up close and personal with the performers – maybe so we could see just how perfect they are – or not, Samuel Littlewoodwith the stained shirt, and the need for more make-up? In part, the action also takes place around you, which is more interesting than simply in front of you. Maybe the actors could have taken even better advantage of this layout and moved around us even more; but it’s still a relatively small room so I accept there are limits!

Florence Rees-WaiteThe production boasted three very good performances, with very believable vanity coming from the two “perfectionists” and very believable hopelessness coming from the realist. There were a couple of minor timing/memory hiccups in the final scene but nothing to worry about. Inventive, enjoyable, and a light-hearted way of making some serious points. Good work!