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Posts Tagged ‘Jess Jones’

Another evening, another alternative Christmas show. Actually, not really a Christmas show at all. It might be Beauty & the Beast and it is (sort of) based on the 18th century French fairy tale, but it’s about as far from traditional adaptations as it’s possible to be. Forget the Cocteau film and the Disney musical, this is completely original and simply extraordinary. Oh, and don’t take the kids!

Mat Fraser and Julie Atlas Muz are husband and wife performance artists. She’s Beauty and he’s the Beast, and he’s disabled. They intertwine aspects of their real lives and relationship with the iconic story; it even starts with introductions out of character and costume. They are aided by a pair of (virtually puppetless) ‘puppeteers’, Jonny Dixon & Jess Jones, who start with cut-out projections and move on to create flowers and birds with paper, arms for Beast and by the end of the show are as naked as Beauty and The Beast are. It’s captivating, intriguing, funny, moving and ultimately exhilarating. but it’s awfully hard to explain why.

At first, the stepping in and out of character irritates, but then you get used to it, then you actually like it. The scenes are played out in front of and on a stage, elevated wings and inside a small proscenium at the back. The period costumes are gradually shed. There is a hysterical (imaginary) sex scene involving a lot of fruit and it ends with one without the fruit. With a little prompting, the audience become dogs with a diversity of barks and surprising volume. It twists and turns yet somehow feels cohesive by the end; Phelim McDermott’s direction is full of surprises.

I’d almost forgotten what it felt like to leave an Improbable show (though this is a co-production with the couples own company, Oneofus), swept away by the imagination and ingenuity. A unique evening you should not miss.

 

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