all the pantos and other family shows of the season, this modest little
gem may be the one that children and grownups enjoy most and remember
Ann Duffy has reshaped a handful of classic tales, ranging from the
familiar (Beauty and the Beast, The Emperor's New Clothes) to the less
so (The Juniper Tree). Melly Still and Tim Supple adapted them for the
stage, and Still directs an attractive and versatile cast in bringing
them comically or touchingly alive.
Story Theatre, with the actors sharing narration, sometimes just a line
or two each, at the same time as they portray the characters. (The
technique may be most familiar from Trevor Nunn's RSC Nicholas
Nickleby, though American director Paul Sills first developed it, with
some of the same fairy tales, in the 1950s.)
so we are told
and shown each tale in turn, each in an appropriate mode. Some, like
the farmer who tries to do his wife's chores for a day, turn into broad
farce; others, like The Juniper Tree or Beauty and the Beast, get a
more evocatively poetic treatment; and the modern dress Emperor's New
Clothes even manages a bit of topical satire.
of the very
young might be warned that, quite appropriately, there are occasional
gory or scary touches - Bluebeard's victims, Beast's fangs, a severed
head - but they should also be reminded that they, the parents, are
likely to be more upset by these things than the kids, who
instinctively understand scariness to be part of the fairy tale world.
school audience I sat with, the kids are fully caught up in the
narratives and imaginative staging, though inevitably it is the
naughtier bits that delight them most - a pig wallowing messily in the
farmer's spilled milk, Beast's lack of table manners, or the Emperor's
can appreciate the clever staging and some of the subtler humour, like
a cow with attitude or the Austin Powers-ish tricks by which the
Emperor's modesty is protected.
just a wee
bit overlong (two and a half hours, including interval), the show is
still that rare thing, a delight the whole family can share.
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Review - Beasts and Beauties - Hampstead 2010