Egon Schiele's paintings don't quite command the prices of his mentor's, Gustav Klimt, but what they lack in dough they Make Up For in kudos. In Schiele's world, love is painful, but erotic; tender, but subversive; intimate, but public.
Inspired by the life and works of the Austrian expressionist and exploring some of his contradictions, Elena Bolster's Beast (at The White Bear Theatre until 17 June) has a man and a woman circle each other, socially, psychologically, sexually. Keiron Jecchinis plays Egon (older than Schiele who was carried off by the European flu epidemic after World War I at just 28) as a moody artist, but one capable of charming flattery, cosmopolitan conversation and gentle lovemaking. As his model, Valie, Mel Oskar is smart and funny, coquettish with her native Bjorkish Icelandic lilt breaking through (to be caught by Egon's ear and teasingly mocked). Valie is a half-hearted hooker, but a spirited muse - exactly what the older man needs and wants.
Told in prose, in poetry and through almost balletic movement on a tiny stage, Beast feels at times like a painting - inviting contemplation, rather than a following of a linear plot. It's hardly a date movie, but this odd couple win us over with their strange love, before a denouement that shows that everyone doesn't always live happily ever after.