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


Leave a Reply

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

You are commenting using your 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

Mandy Bangerter

Textile Artist and Teacher


Smile! You’re at the best site ever


Bohemian Stuff

pulseless electrical activity.

The Observation Post

mistermuse, half-poet and half-wit

Wild Star Landing

Poetry, Facts, Fiction, Inspired by Travel, Art, Science, Nature & Philosophy

Turtle Bunbury

Historian * Author * Presenter * Speaker * Guide

Fierce Writing

Not so much Rage Against the Machine as Slightly Peeved the Taps Won't Work

Victorian Footnotes

Bringing back the forgotten

Etan Smallman

Freelance journalist

Michael Ehrhardt

Permanenter Ausstellungsraum


Writing about writing; words about the world

It's all in the Past!

Writing about current events from a historical perspective.

Mrinalini Raj


History Quirks

The Casual Past


Words and images from the past

The adventures of Janice Duke and her Magical Travelling Paint Box

Caz Greenham...Storyteller...Author...

Creator and Author of The Adventures of Eric Seagull 'Storyteller' series

Movies From The Silent Era

A repository for movies from the silent era

Art Universal

Art as a Sensory

Henry Brooke

Musings, Memories and Miscellanea

Matthew Toffolo's Summary

Daily summary of the life/movie world.

When Angels Fly

Author site of S. Jackson & A. Raymond

off the leash

History, technology, books and baseball.



Writer Site

Memoir, poetry, & writing theory


faces gourmet world of fashion, design and art

From guestwriters

Lifestyle magazine and Readers Digest

The Vintage Toy Advertiser

Suffering ink-stained fingers and occasional staple wounds to bring you wonderful images of vintage toy ads and other retro paperworks

Sauce Box

Never get lost in the Sauce


Theatre, Film and TV.

Smart History Blog

Compelling Stories of Russian History

Newcastle Photography

Photography Blog by Chris Egon Searle

Brave and Reckless

Reclaiming my inner badass at 50

Gretchen Del Rio's Art Blog

Watercolor paintings

Today in History

"Tell me a fact, and I'll learn. Tell me a truth, and I'll believe. But tell me a story, and it will live in my heart forever." - Steve Sabol, NFL Films

The Architect & I

The Nazis assigned him a number but I wanted the world to know his name.

Basic Archaeology

Archaeology News, Interesting Facts and More


Being a web log for the observations of actor, author, cartoonist, comedian, critic, director, humorist, journalist, master of ceremonies, performance artist, playwright, producer, publicist, public speaker, songwriter, and variety booker Trav S.D.

LOIS BRYAN Photography and Digital Art


A Green future for the Isle of Wight


a world travel photo blog by Jackie Hadel


Music means something

%d bloggers like this: