Play review: Beauty and the Beast at The Edge, Bath Uni

BUST brought to the stage of Bath’s ICIA a new adaptation of the beloved, traditional fairy tale Beauty and the Beast, originally written in French language by Jeanne-Marie LePrince de Beaumont. The modern version, adding a fresh wit to a well-known story, was rewritten and first performed by the Royal Shakespeare Company. Directors Michelle Walder and Thomas Langhams created a wonderful show, that picked up the melancholic feel of the story with soulful acting and a carefully thought through overall design. While touchingly portraying the profound themes of love, sacrifice and frivolity, the performance kept us on our toes with quick wit, especially from the two malevolent sisters who were a dynamic couple with great natural interplay.

An outstanding feature of the show was its fitting cast, especially Beauty’s family, which had a great authenticity to it and managed to portray every-day family struggles, known to all of us, within the special frame of the play. There was a perfect mix of laughter and tears with regard to Beauty’s dysfunctional family, constantly overshadowed by the looming ruin of the father- wonderfully portrayed by Andy Massey.

As for the visual and audio design, the show had a lot to offer with something to fulfil everyone’s artistic desires, whether it is ballet or real life robots to Disney-like characters of props, coming to life. With an army of 15 helpers in the chorus, the directors had the freedom and resources to be truly creative. The result was extremely powerful and really allowed the audience to indulge in the scenery. Especially one scene, set in a mysterious mirror room in the beast’s castle, left a lasting impression. The mirrors were a clever use of props, being typically associated with characters’ self-reflection. In this case they gave the audience an insight into Beauty’s dreams as she embraced the people closest to her.

Last but definitely not least to mention the lead roles Beauty, played by Ana Gallego-Martin and Beast, played by Dave Shaw whose thrilling interplay was the heart and soul of the performance. They managed to portray well, the mixture of fear, repulsion and affection that makes for such a strange but eventually extremely romantic relationship between the two. Shaw seemed to be enjoying his part, which is challenging but seemingly rewarding, thoroughly and Gallego-Martin acted as a perfect counter-part. As the play progressed, the audience watched the couple’s relationship become more and more loving and intimate under the motto ‘See With More Than Your Eyes’, which was chanted in almost cult-like prayer by the chorus, reminding us of the powerful moral of this fairy tale.

Reviewed by Naomi Chhatwal & Emilia Pliss

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