Picture Perfect

Lynne Lancaster

RIVERSIDE THEATRES: This dance production is a chilling and thought-provoking look at a very hot topic – body image and over-use of plastic surgery.
Picture Perfect
Short, sharp and terrific, Picture Perfect is a chilling, thought-provoking look at a very hot topic – body image, BDD (Body Dysmorphic Disorder) and the extensive over-use of plastic surgery in contemporary society.

With a long career as a professional dancer, choreographer Fiona Malone has observed first hand the impact the pressures to obtain ‘physical perfection’ can have on young people in the dance world. She has worked closely on this production with her sister, Dr Julie Malone, a clinical psychologist specializing in the field of BDD. Together, they are passionate about raising awareness of this condition.

Delirious under the anesthetic, a Young Woman (brilliantly danced by Patricia Wood) has weird nightmarish dreams in which her rather creepy, coldly sadistic doctor (Verity Jacobsen) seemingly encourages her to further achieve her ‘ ideal body’ in a vicious cycle of yet more operations.

The Young Woman’s inner self/friend/alter ego is the third main character, excellently performed by Vittoria Lasorella.

Choreographically, Malone’s work is impressive, strong and sculptural. A major choreographic theme seems to be the use of the circle and folding/unfolding repeated phrases of movement, with an emphasis on floor work .The ‘recovery’ solo for Wood towards the end was masterful.

At times I thought detected some Rafael Bonachela-like influences, and also Murphy’s Poppy as well as Matthew Bourne. There was some marvellous danced dialogue work between the Young Woman (Wood) and her Friend (Lasorella).

The frieze-like entrance for the doctor and the four nurses (Alysha Firbank, Olivia Fyfe, Kate Herron and Rebecca Frasca) was eerie, chilling and effective. The four nurses all had white, pasty faces that were seemingly shiny, plastic and smooth – the results of overdone surgery? Intriguing use was made of partial body casts, implants, and the mannequin. Also of interest was the Young Woman’s repetitive measuring of herself against the idealized mannequin, echoed later by the doctor emphasizing ‘perfect’ measurements.

In one section, after an apparently ‘botched’ nose job, Wood and Lasorella have a pas de deux for the unwrapping of the bandages that combines tender concern with a sort of Frankenstein’s Monster feel, and also the unveiling of the new persona Wood’s character is trying to create.

Melanie Pauls’ excellent curved set design for the tiny stage of the Lennox Theatre is ‘minimalist creative’ – all bleak white with a hospital bed and bathroom facilities (a mirror and links to the video cameras used are most important). There are several hidden doors that slide or fold to reveal, for example, a walk-in wardrobe with several changes of clothes, which open for the very effective, excellently lit exits/entrances by the nurses, and which also act as a screen for the projections of snatches of the operation etc. Despite its dark theme, Picture Perfect has an encouraging ending .It was developed as a springboard for further discussion, particularly in schools, and as such it certainly works, especially if audience attended the fascinating q&a session afterwards.

Picture Perfect

A Western Sydney Dance Action and Riverside Theatres production
Featuring Trish Wood, Kathy Cogill, Vittoria Lasorella, with Alysha Firbank, Olivia Fyfe, Kate Herron, Verity Jacobsen

Riverside Theatre, Parramatta
Season concluded

What the stars mean?
  • Five stars: Exceptional, unforgettable, a must see
  • Four and a half stars: Excellent, definitely worth seeing
  • Four stars: Accomplished and engrossing but not the best of its kind
  • Three and a half stars: Good, clever, well made, but not brilliant
  • Three stars: Solid, enjoyable, but unremarkable or flawed
  • Two and half stars: Neither good nor bad, just adequate
  • Two stars: Not without its moments, but ultimately unsuccessful
  • One star: Awful, to be avoided
  • Zero stars: Genuinely dreadful, bad on every level

About the author

Lynne Lancaster is a Sydney based arts writer who has previously worked for Ticketek, Tickemaster and the Sydney Theatre Company. She has an MA in Theatre from UNSW, and when living in the UK completed the dance criticism course at Sadlers Wells, linked in with Chichester University.