made up top

Made Up

Birmingham Rep Door


STAN’S Café (always pronounced ‘caff’) are a local theatre company based in the Jewellery Quarter.

With progressive and experimental work, they aim to look into life’s tiny elements that make the world pass by to then play out in theatrical explorations.

Made Up aims to show the intimacies of an everyday relationship between two women. Many of us in the audience have probably held a conversation between a hairdresser or make-up artist in the past.

Stan’s Caff want to see how far a relationship can develop within a close intimate space with only two strangers involved. They push the boundaries of what is right and proper to talk about to a person you do not know.

Made Up is a devised piece, created by Emily Holyoake and Alexis Tuttle who performed for us. When watching the show, it is clear to see that the project is a team effort, with writing and direction by James Yarker.

The concept holds a simple idea that holds a multitude of possibilities. The show centres the characters Sue and Kate. Sue is a make-up artist who is incredibly successful. Having built up her business and reputation, Sue now transforms the faces of film stars.

One film star in particular is actress Kate, having made her fame in a comical advert that transforms ‘alien skin’ which we see during the production. Kate attends Sue’s studio each morning for hair and make-up before a day of filming.

The show of two women is performed by the superbly talented Holyoake and Tuttle, their characters reveal a relationship between two unlikely strangers in a fly on the wall style. As the play unfolds, we see each day pass and Sue and Kate’s daily conversations become deeper and deeper. video screenAs a result, their relationship as strangers forms into a deep and purposeful friendship of individual therapy.

Devisers Holyoake and Tuttle do well to reveal the essence of each of their characters. It is interesting to see how the difference in generation affects the story and indeed their relationship.

Emily Holyoake as Kate with the video screen adding an extra dimension behind. Pictures: Graeme Braidwood

They work in the same industry, but do not have the same job. Their separate lives eventually meet in the middle and what we see is the result of two paths intimately crossing. The action stems through Yarker’s intimate dialogue, where it is revealed that both women are unsettled by the pressures of their jobs and personal lives.

The highs and lows of their life experience so far are highlighted beautifully by the actors’ subtlety and matter-of-fact performances. Tuttle plays mother Sue with excellent affinity, while on the surface her success is something to be proud of, but she has sacrificed a relationship with her partner and daughter in the process.

Kate also holds secrets from the outside world that can only be said in the confines of their intimate space. As an actress, Kate is constantly in the public domain and struggles to let her true identity shine through the image that people have made her out to be. Holyoake has a wonderfully sensitive charm in her portrayal of Kate and gives way to the pressures of being a woman highly regarded in the public eye, showing the responsibility that we may perhaps not realise.

The ladies also multi-role, becoming characters from each other’s lives, allowing us to see the emotional impact in real time as well as having the story laid out to us from the viewpoint of Kate and Sue.

The set is particularly clever. Harry Trow’s design gives the audience the feeling that the two women are in their own make-up box and we are looking into their world. They are surrounded by a box of orange lights. It is their own room and the women are oblivious to what is outside of it.

The set gives the feeling that the audience are exposed to a great secret, almost having the same feeling of listening to a stranger on a bus. The women are blissfully unaware and allow the audience into their intimate world.

Trow also had a fantastic idea that alluded to Stan’s Café’s classic style of technical exploration within their work. Throughout the performance, a camera was always shooting Kate sitting in the stylist’s chair and was played back through a screen, which we could see behind. It acted as a mirror for Sue’s make-up. The chair would rotate so that Kate would then be in front of a green screen, where we would see the scenes played out before us after Kate’s hair and make-up sessions with Sue.

Stan’s Café reveal the intimacies of life and celebrate what it means to be a woman. Together Sue and Kate divulge their life stories and create an assuring environment so that they can talk to each other without the consequence of anyone else hearing. It is touching to see how an unlikely friendship can be formed by watching the interaction between them both. Their story is of nostalgic love, pain and beautiful hope. To 21-05-16

Elizabeth Halpin



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