The Beauty and The Beast
I went to check out The English Drama Company's latest offering The Beauty and The Beast on June 23rd, the final night of a three-day run staged not at their usual theatre but at Teatre Tantaratana.
I took my seat ready to watch what was billed as a horror reworking of the classic story akin to Grimm's fairy tales. What I saw however far surpassed the macabre nature of the Grimm brothers' work.
The play began amid the sounds of rain and opened on a pampered prince played with great timing and nonchalant arrogance by Edward Garcia. At the end of the scene, he is cursed by a witch amid flashing lights and satanic chanting. He walks centre stage gripping his stomach before collapsing and letting out heart-wrenching screams and shouts as the stage plunges into darkness. This opening scene really set the tone of the play and sent a ripple of whispers through the audience.
The show had some impressive performances—it was easy to forget that these guys are freshly trained amateurs. Sebastian Ghandchi played a sadistic loan shark very realistically. In one scene, he grimly strokes Belle with a sword whilst recounting what he would like to do to her if a debt isn't repaid. Throughout the play, Belle herself, played by Olivia Jane Skinner, really did look at times like a damsel in distress and at others, one in love. Captain of the local guard Ribald was played by Holger Exner and his booming authoritative voice really suited the part. Julian Wickham, also the play's writer and director, played the Beast in a particularly engaging way; throwing himself around the stage, he looked like a veritable lunatic.
As a female, some parts of the script made me uncomfortable. The frequent use of graphic and violent language as well as some of the insinuations made onstage made me glad there were no children in the audience. Obscenities aside, the story was easy to follow, entertaining and well constructed with a myriad of very colourful characters.
Some characters carried metal swords and there were numerous, well-executed swords fights throughout the show. However, near the end, the Beast is killed by Belle's decrepit Father Winthrop (played by Jakob Ulburghs) with a gun which looked too modern for a fantasy horror play. The show focused on the action, language and shock factor—I would liked to have seen more of a love story develop between Belle and the Beast.
The costumes were spot on. From the Beast's long flowing velvet cape to the outfit of the serving maid in the tavern, each one was highly detailed and looked like something you would see on an episode of Games Of Thrones. The finest set for me was the tavern, which had an authentic wooden bar and antique chairs—the set designer really recreated the medieval look. The makeup was extreme and portrayed everyone in quite a withered, dark way befitting of a show like this. However, due to the lighting it was difficult to see the full extent of the makeup until the house lights came up at the end.
The Beauty and The Beast kept me engrossed in the story despite feeling uncomfortable at times. The final scene was explosive as six characters fought and died with their weapons around Belle crying over the Beast's dead body. An entertaining night out and I can only wonder what The English Drama Company will produce next.