A theatre company sees a film, they don’t like the message of the film, and they decide to parody the film. It’s a tale as old as time (or for copyright purposes perhaps it’s a ‘story you have heard before.’ After seeing the recent live-action remake of Beauty and the Beast, Rascal Theatre felt that the promised feminist message failed to deliver and so decided to make their own version. In this gender-swapped version of the Disney Classic, Beauty and the Beast, Beau, a young, Jane Austen loving man is pursued by Siobahn, the town’s most powerful woman, but ends up trapped in a castle with a female (also Jane Austen loving) beast. Does this make it more feminist? Probably not. Does it highlight the ridiculousness of the original story? Yes. Does it make for a fun evening’s entertainment? Absolutely.
At its heart, the production is a satirical take on both Disney and also on a modern lifestyle. The songs and characters remain remarkably close to the originals whilst simultaneously avoiding copyright breaches – Chip becomes Crack, Wolf Chase becomes Lynx Chase, and in a stroke of brilliance, Be Our Guest becomes Have a Brunch – which make for a truly amusing parody. In order to appreciate the intelligence of the parody it helps to have a good knowledge of the film but, as with the best parodies, you don’t need this to enjoy the show. There are enough laughs from the caricatures of modern life to ensure that everybody can access the production.
One of the strengths of this production is that it does not hammer home the gender swap, yes it’s there but it is not what the company are relying on to make the production work. There are plenty of other points from the film which are raised including the ridiculous number of eggs that Gaston eats per day (or kale omelettes in the case of Siobahn) and the likely impacts of this on a small provincial town, the craziness of the talking furniture (if the teapot and candelabra can talk then why not the toilet?), and the controversy which led to the recent remake being banned in Russia over possible homosexuality has been taken and run with.
The company was consistently strong, playing multiple roles involving some very quick changes. A special mention must go to Allie Munro playing both Beau’s mother, Maureen and Siobahn’s downtrodden assistant La Fou Fou, sometimes in the same scene (along with Lumie in other scenes).
Her comic characterisations provided much of the entertainment for the show. The fun was helped along by the cheesy choreography and the ingenious use of props- I particularly enjoyed the use of an exercise bike to replace a horse.
There were a couple of minor issues with the sound – the backing music was perhaps slightly too loud which meant that it was sometimes a struggle to hear the lyrics which, given how well written they were, is a shame.
Occasionally diction was poor, especially where multiple members of the company were singing simultaneously which again, meant some of the words were lost. However, these minor issues can be overlooked in favour of the enjoyment provided throughout. An excellent evening’s entertainment.
Review by Emily Diver
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. Brace yourself for 100 minutes of boundless energy and musical mayhem as Fat Rascal Theatre explore whether fairy tales really can come true – even when the princess doesn’t quite fit the slipper.
Beauty and the Beast – A Musical Parody
Book & Lyrics Robyn Grant & Daniel Elliot
Music James Ringer-Beck
Producers Laura Elmes Productions in association with Fat Rascal Theatre
Performance Dates October 31st 2018 – November 17th 2018
The Kings Head Theatre, 115 Upper Street, London, N1 1QN
Running Time 100 mins
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