BEASTS AND BEAUTIES
by Carol Ann Duffy dramatised by Melly Still and Tim Supple.
Hampstead Theatre Eton Avenue Swiss Cottage NW3 3EU To 31 December 2010.
23, 27-30 Dec 7pm.
Mat 23, 24, 27-31 Dec 2.30pm
Audio-described (+Touch Tour) 30 Dec 2.30pm.
Captioned 28 Dec 7pm.
Post-show Discussion 28 Dec.
Runs 2hr 30min Ione interval.
TICKETS: 020 7722 9301.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 15 December.
High-order, theatrically inventive tale-telling.
Presumably the minimum age of 8 Hampstead Theatre prescribes for this show is to ensure accompanying adults have someone large enough to hide behind or hold onto in the more terrifying, or potentially embarrassing, moments. The young people, of course, will be loving it all.
Carol Ann Duffy has assembled folk tales well-known and unfamiliar from around Europe, while adapters Melly Still and Tim Supple ensure their dramatisation is fit for Still’s lively production, on an open space with audience wrapped around two sides. The stories’ reality and truth, cloaked by surface fantasy, can be comic or tragic.
There’s the man who complains about work, only to have his wife do his job while he makes a mess of multi-tasking around the home and its animals. This near-farce comes after the sinister opening with Bluebeard threatening his latest wife as she calls desperately for help from afar.
Horrifics aren’t held back either in the brief Beauty and the Beast, where Beast’s crookedly extended limbs and stocking-mask flattened face combine with sudden leaps to create shocks only finally washed away in his onstage transformation. As for possible embarrassment, the new-clothed Emperor really is naked; the trail of objects by which his private parts remain quite private has its own narrative suspense.
Though moral points can be drawn, these stories essentially record human experience: such things happen, people behave like this, they make clear – sharing experience rather than teaching lessons. The fine cast reflect this with a plain, non-psychological style in spoken narrative, dialogue and the relation between speech and physical action.
So, in the final story, where a young woman is tricked out of her magic possessions at an inn, the thievish crowd are characterised in a moment as they hide the wealth their theft has brought when she returns, while their final defeat comes through their victim’s action not moral judgment. Often, magic entities help right wrongs. But the true magic lies in people; as writers, director and cast make clear, when surviving in a world of problems and wrongdoing, it’s strength of character and persistence that pay off.
Cast: Justin Avoth, Elaine Claxton, Rhiannon Harper-Rafferty, Emily Mitton, Al Nedjari, Jack Tarlton, Jason Thorpe, Kelly Williams.
Director: Melly Still.
Designers: Melly Still, Anna Fleischle.
Lighting: Chris Davey.
Sound: Matt McKenzie.
Composer/Music Director: Dave Price.
Juniper Tree Puppetry: Yvonne Stone.
Fight director: Philip D’Orleans.
Assistant director: Oliver Rose.