It has often been thought that in a play, boys will be boys and girls will be girls. There are male roles and female roles. The truth is of course that the theatre is full of gender-swapping roles and often to great effect – Tamzin Greig (Malvolio) in Twelfth Night?
But, what happens when you take a much-loved show and swap every role, so the men are now women and the women are now men? Well, if you want to find out, then nippety-pop to the King’s Head Theatre where Fat Rascal Theatre are presenting Beauty and the Beast.
In a castle out in the woods, a beautiful but imperious princess (Robyn Grant) spurns an old beggar man seeking assistance. Upset by this, the beggar reveals himself to be an enchanter and curses the princess and all within her palace. The castle inhabitants (Aaron Dart, Allie Munro and Katie Wells) become furniture and crockery, while the princess is turned into an ugly beast doomed to stay that way unless she can learn to love and be loved. A short distance away, in a provincial little town, a handsome, well read and just a little bit pretentious, young man by the name of Beau (Jamie Mawson) dreams of finding a better life and a wife with whom he connects both emotionally and intellectually. Two lonely individuals seeking unconventional love. Will they ever both be happy or are they forever going to be alone?
So, I have to declare an interest here. When it comes to Beauty and the Beast, I have watched both Disney movies – animated and live action – and saw the stage show when it was on in London. I’m guessing writers Robyn Grant and Daniel Elliot, along with composer James Ringer-Beck have done the same but seen the movies many more times than I. The story they presented was a superb copy of the originals – even down to the pointless subplot of Beau’s father dying in Paris.
The songs were just on the right side of not being too like the originals that Disney’s lawyers can relax. And full congratulations to the songwriting team. Anyone that can take my favourite meal of the day and give it its own song in a show “Have a Brunch” has definitely got my vote for show of the year. Musical Director Nicola Chang uses her keyboard and drum well to provide the backing music and all of the cast have excellent singing voices. In fact, they all seem to be the proverbial ‘triple threat’
Basically, every element of the original Beauty and the Beast was accounted for in this production, right down to the opening company idents – ‘steamboat Willie’ and ‘Pixar Lamp’. So we have Chevonne – the lusty local beauty determined to make Beau her husband – and her devoted ‘friend’ La Fou Fou. There is Beau’s mother Maureen all the servants in the palace – Lumie, Clockface, Mrs Spout and her daughter Crack. The whole list of characters brought to life by five amazing actors, and some very quick costume changing backstage. And speaking of costumes, the ones used in the production of Beauty and the Beast are of a really high standard, particularly the Beast’s designed by Hugh Purves.
I’m going to be honest. I wasn’t sure about the show when I was first given it to review. A 9:30 start and roughly 90 minutes running time followed by a journey home, this was going to have to be something pretty special to keep me from my beauty sleep. But believe me, when I say it was so worth it. The time flew by and the show just kept me entertained from start to the well-deserved standing ovation from the audience at the end. Some old bores might complain to the Daily Mail about the idea of gender swapping all the roles, but that shows their problems, not the productions. Swapping everyone over really does work brilliantly. Ultimately proving that excellent writing, a talented cast and a professional production will guarantee an appreciative and entertained audience head out into the December night smiling and feeling happy to have witnessed something really special.
Review by Terry Eastham
She’s grotesque. A possessive beast of a woman, to be sure. But look on the bright side, Beau: she’s got a lovely personality. Somewhere. Under all the fur.
A fairytale land, far, far away. A handsome young bookworm who always dreamt of more. A hideous beast, in her cursed castle… It’s a tale as old as time, as you’ve never heard it before. This Christmas, from the creators of the award-winning sell-out hit Buzz: A New Musical, comes a big hairy dollop of festive fun. With a cast of five and an onstage musician, brace yourself for 90 minutes of boundless energy and musical madness as Fat Rascal Theatre explore whether fairytales really can come true – even when the princess doesn’t quite fit the slipper. Join us for our brand new, gender-swapped parody of Beauty and the Beast.
Robyn Grant – Beast
Jamie Mawson – Beau
Aaron Dart – Ensemble
Allie Munro – Ensemble
Katie Wells – Ensemble
Writers Robyn Grant, Daniel Pool, James Ringer-Beck
Director Fat Rascal Theatre Company
Assoc. Director Cat Robey
Producers Laura Elmes Productions & Fat Rascal Theatre
Theatre: Kings Head Theatre, The Kings Head Theatre, 115 Upper Street, London, N1 1QN
Twitter: @WeAreFatRascal @KingsHeadThtr