Beauty and the Beast – Bristol Old Vic – 19/11/13 – Review


First things first, this play is more about the two main actors’ (Julie Atlas Muz and Mat Fraser) love for each other as opposed to the actual traditional story of beauty and the beast. Granted this was never going to be a traditional portrayal of Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve’s script. The two stories do intertwine, and to it’s credit they do it very well, but there was no-where near enough emphasis on story and plot.

As warned from the vague description on the website, the play is very heavily themed on sex and nudity. Although initially shocking, the meaning of the nudity was quickly lost and very quickly became not  shocking. If they aimed at using this technique as a factor of In-Yer-Face theatre, then they failed to apply it well. As part of In-Yer-Face theatre, the audience should be constantly shocked and should leave shocked too, if at any moment the “shock factor” becomes something that you aren’t uncomfortable viewing of conceiving, then the idea has failed. This is exactly what happened in the play.

The nudity was completely distasteful and irrelevant, the dialogue was disjointed and chunky, the acting was well below par too. The actors were over-indulgent, not only very clearly in love with each other but with themselves too.
The In-Yer-Face theatre style was terribly executed, being more grotesque than shocking. The message that “everyone is beautiful” is terribly conveyed as the “beast” was never once described as anything more flattering than ugly.
The best part of the play was disconnected from the story and irrelevant, the best acting was done by the puppeteers.
The play left us wondering whether this was just a horny couples outlet for a kinky fantasy with a budget higher than they ever could have imagined.

One of the main issue’s of the play was the fact that it was not only advertised as a 16+ (it should have been an 18+) but it also influenced school groups to go, this was and still is a big mistake which should be addressed as soon as possible.

The play finished with a simulated sex scene, which, one could only assume, was attempted to be shocking, but for me it was almost expected. It was also pointless and very unprofessional. I feel as if this was done ‘just because they could’ as opposed to having a more sub-textual meaning which is what such an act would need to be justified, otherwise it’s bordering on sexual assault to the audience.

All in all, although being quick witted and flirting on hilarious at times, the play is very unprofessional and distastefully done. I have no doubts that the play will remain in my head for a very long time, but for all the wrong reasons.

Jaryd Evans.