Rogues & Vagabonds

theatre, film & tv past and present 2001-2008 & 2013…

Archive Review • BEAUTY AND THE BEAST • Royal Shakespeare Theatre • 2004

The first Shakespeare Memorial theatre complex, pictured in the 1890s

The first Shakespeare Memorial theatre complex, pictured in the 1890s [Wikipedia]

Sexy and violent, bawdy and slapstick, the RSC’s Christmas Season production of Beauty and the Beast is undoubtedly fun for all the family. There is no way that this can be described simply as a children’s show. It is a technical marvel, a fanciful narrative and an exotically charged piece of theatrical entertainment. Adults wallowed in humour that was as far distant from pantomime as walnuts are from elephant droppings. Children adored the coarseness of constant references to farting siblings and technically challenged robots. At the core, a timeless story of faith, trust and obedience, the ingredients which conjure up their own unique version of love in adversity. This show is a marvel.

The RSC main house stage is stripped bare and clad in vast sheets of pine plywood that rise to the flies. Square, solid columns of similar pine strut their stuff on either side of the stage, masking various rope, pulley and weight contraptions that hint at Victorian scenic effects — tumblecloths and arching taut bamboos, and a huge swinging cage that would be a dream in any adult or child’s playground. First used as a carriage to whisk the family into the country, it is later turned into Beauty’s regal bed and left to swing like a giant cot to lull her to sleep. These are just some of the feast of visual effects which complement this stunning production.

We are first introduced to a Chorus of balletic singer-actors who look just as though they have stepped from the set of The Matrix. These are cool dudes and dudesses, dressed all in black with shades. The costumes are a fetishist’s dream, corseted and coated, with close fitting black caps and white faces. The Chorus adopts the roles of magnificent horses or pack of menacing red-eyed wolves or dutiful servants bearing the pinkest of pink candles with ease and graceful skill.

From behind an eighteenth century Age of Enlightenment curtain are revealed the Family. Father is Jean Louis (Darren Tunstall) accompanied by his wife, Helene (Jan Pearson) and their six wayward children, Marie Claire (Beth Vyse), Veronique (Sirine Saba), Phillipe (Christian Flint), André (Daniel Tuite), Emile (Miltos Yerolemou) and of course Beauty, played with innocent charm by Karen Paullada. It is the story of this French family who fall on hard times and have to move to the country which guides this tale to its heart-wrenching conclusion.

Each member of the family is so precisely drawn, so closely studied, that adult and child alike in the audience instantly recognized the swot, the mother’s boy, the brat, the thicko, the sporty sort; all added enormous fun and laughs. We all know the story of Beauty and the Beast, and we all know that the merchant father, through his indiscretion with a rose is forced to proffer his daughter to a Beast as wife, but nothing could have prepared the audience for the semi-revealed monster who scares us when he first appears. All through the interval youngsters were gleefully reminding their parents how shocking the monster was, how horrible, how ghastly, how scary. This is a monster that really works.

Of course, the Beast, who has an uncanny resemblance to Predator in the movie and a Hannibal Lectoresque approach to mealtimes, is not all that bad, just a little rough round the edges. Gary Sefton is superb in this role and commands the stage with this larger than life character. He is ably assisted in the running of the palace by his robot servants, the Beast’s Man and the Beast’s Maid, played by Yerolemou and Saba respectively. These two mechanical misfits provide the biggest laughs from the young audience who instantly adore their innocent yet naughty humour.

Overseeing the whole adventure is the Witch, doubled by Pearson whose Mother character dies very early on in the play, the event that triggers the first disasters in the family. Pearson’s Witch is a glamorous dominatrix-like character whose strength masks her duty and sincere care for the unfortunate Beast. It is the Witch who eventually sets all things to rights and is left at peace in the Palace.

Laurence Boswell has written and directed a wonderful show. Assisted by the designs of Jeremy Herbert and the raunchy costumes of Kandis Cook, it is a visual Beast’s feast. Stuart Hopps choreographs eleven talented dancers who add to the quality of the evening’s entertainment. Join this with Mick Sands’s hauntingly evocative music which resonates with Arabian promise, and you have an immediate success. To me, the greatest compliment the RSC could have received on this opening night was the complete enraptured silence of its young audience. No shifting of seats, just open and gleeful laughter or deliciously fearful horror and a genuine love for all on stage. A huge adventure and a huge success.

Kevin Quarmby © 2004

Originally published on R&V 28-11-04

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Jots from a Small Apt.

Largely @ Liberty

Rethinking Life

Art and the philosophy of life

Croatia, the War, and the Future

Ina Vukic - Croatia: people, politics, history, economy, transition from communism to democracy

lynz real cooking

lynz real life

Pride's Purge

an irreverent look at UK politics

Pride's Purge

an irreverent look at UK politics

Tropical Affair

Observations of the illusion through the eyes of wonder...

barneyhoskyns.com

The home of writer Barney Hoskyns' books, poems, photos and more.

Smorgasbord - Variety is the spice of life

Blog magazine for lovers of health, food, books, music, humour and life in general

I didn't have my glasses on....

A trip through life with fingers crossed and eternal optimism.

Left Handed Lottie

Drawing and painting on an ipad

Atelier 88

More than just rooms

The Sleeping Hare

Art by Lottie Nevin

Pacific Paratrooper

This WordPress.com site is Pacific War era information

beetleypete

The musings of a Londoner, now living in Norfolk

Vegan Books For Children

books from Little Chicken, Honestly Books and Violet's Vegan Comics

Catherine Meyrick

Historical Fiction with a touch of Romance

Silver Screenings

an irreverent blog of old movies

My Life as an Artist (2)

Smile! You’re at the best WordPress.com site ever

Violet's Vegan Comics

Virtual Vegan Comics for Children

Two Rooms Plus Utilities

Written from the heart, this is the unadulterated truth of live with multiple chronic illnesses and being housebound. My life open for you to follow. Please join me

kickingthecat

How current policy is little more than kicking the cat....

Matt's History Blog

Hopefully interesting snippets and thoughts

David Hencke

Westminster and Whitehall news investigations

Notes from the U.K.

Exploring the spidery corners of a culture and the weird stuff that tourist brochures ignore.

BRIDGET WHELAN writer

August is archive month. Posts from the past

P.A. Moed

Creative Exploration in Words and Pictures

creartfuldodger

collage/mixed media artist

My Dad Is A Goldfish

Caring for a demented dad

Scope's Blog

Scope exists to make this country a place where disabled people have the same opportunities as everyone else. Until then, we'll be here.

Art Studio of a Country Woman

Painting My World with My Heart

e-Tinkerbell

Literature, books , sport and whatever intrigues me

AT A GENTLE PACE - Bridget Whelan's lifestyle travel blog

for people who would try anything except whitewater rafting (probably)

reviewdonkey

My personal opinions about.......stuff (as if you care!)

A Teacher's Reflections

Thirty Years of Wonder

The Theatre Guild Newsletter

Celebrating 98 years on Broadway!

Pen and Pension

Immerse yourself in Georgian and Regency England

Scleroderma Guy

It's Not A Life Sentence. It's A Life. Sentence

Lives Our Ancestors Left Behind

What were their stories for us?

REDFLAGFLYING

Dictatorship is good. If the Dictator is me.

J.M. Weselby @ Magpie Creative Writing Services

because all writers are magpies at heart...

LibDem Fischer

The world of politics

MovieBabble

The Casual Way to Discuss Movies

CineMuseFilms

Freelance Film Critic

%d bloggers like this: