BEASTS AND BEAUTIES
by Carol Ann Duffy adapted by Melly Still and Tim Supple lyrics translated by Francois Testory, Jane Price, Anders Jenson..
Hampstead Theatre Eton Avenue Swiss Cottage NW3 3EU To 7 January 2012.
Runs 2hr 10min One interval.
TICKETS: 020 7722 9301.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 29 October.
Hilarity and profundity in theatrically ingenious tale-telling.
Folk-tales had their feminist side, as the second of Carol Ann Duffy’s collection from various countries comically shows. A husband – not boasting to mates down the pub, though he could be – says he has to work hard in the fields all day while his wife just stays at home and brings him his lunch. So they job-swap for a day and it’s not long before domestic multi-tasking has him hanging upside down, the family pig dead, the cream spilt, the baby howling, and the wife striding happily home to ask where her lunch has got to.
It’s something of a relief after the domestic terror and threatened death when a wife unlocks her husband’s secrets in the opening Bluebeard. These stories tell without philosophising – it’s the two most familiar here, Beauty and the Beast and Hans Andersen’s Emperor’s New Clothes, which come closest to that. Mainly, the stories relate events, letting the action resonate rather than commenting on it.
That favourite folk-tale tree, the Juniper, features in a remarkable story involving magic, cruelty and a horror that has to cause laughter to contain its digest of literature’s most appalling moments: a step-mother’s cruelty and murder, involving her own daughter in her crime, a rolling decapitated head and a father enjoying the stew made from his son’s corpse. A prop head on an actor’s body and silhouette cookery behind a screen give laughter to the central section, but a serious sense of disturbance in, and resolution of, life’s normal patterns lies around.
There’s an anarchic sense to Melly Still’s production, revived from last year’s Hampstead run with about half the cast new. The comedy of a dog and a wolf brings Musical Director Dave Price centre-stage with a percussive symphony of ‘found’ objects, while the inventive highlight remains the naked Emperor, his full-frontal exposure being prevented by a procession of concealing objects. In case that leaves us smug, a final explosive outburst implicates us all in taking the invisible for real.
Designed for 8+ (there are some loud and fearsome moments) the robustly-acted show is a triumph of theatre and storytelling.
Cast: Justin Avoth, Michelle Bonnard, Jake Harders, Rhiannon Harper-Rafferty, Jack Tarlton, Jason Thorpe, Kelly Williams., Laura Hanna, Henry Lewis.
Director: Melly Still.
Designers: Melly Still, Tim Supple.
Lighting: Chris Davey.
Sound: Matt McKenzie.
Composer/Musical Director: Dave Price.
Fight director: Paul Benzing.
Assistant director: Fiona Morrell.
Associate sound: Mike Keniger.