Growing up in the twenty-first century we are taught to be accepting, to be non-judgemental, and open to any culture, sexuality, religion and choice of lifestyle that surrounds us. Parallel to this presumed (and arguable) open-mindedness we are bombarded with pictures and conceptions of perfection – we have to have the perfect career, the perfect family, the perfect body. Perfection – or beauty, in whichever form it comes in – is something we strive for more than ever and this massive pressure of being beautiful and perfect is tainting the lives of many, if not to say destroying our enjoyment of the imperfections of life. Many artists have in fact claimed that it is the discord and the imperfection that’s the beauty of our existence, not the perfect harmony.
The story of Beauty and the Beast is a worldly classic. It has survived many forms and has, with Disney’s version, marked children all over the world with its message of inner beauty and how we should not judge anyone just on looks. However, the message jars as Beast is transformed into a beautiful, Ken-ish prince, and therefore suggests that beastliness should be corrected. This is what ONEOFUS’s Beauty and the Beast at the Young Vic questions – is beastliness really just based on looks and should it be corrected in order to achieve the famous happy ending?
The answer is of course, no.
Beauty and the Beast at the Young Vic is the true love story of a natural born “freak” and an American beauty queen. Being a real-life Beauty and the Beast, Julie Atlas Muz and Mat Fraser takes us through their own story combined with their sexually liberated and provocative take on the classic fairy tale. Using shadow work, puppets and peppered with burlesque, Beauty and the Beast is both a hilarious parody on the stereotypical happy-ending fairy tale, but also a very personal tale of two lovers and the world’s response to their differences. Playing with the audience’s preconceptions of beauty and disability, Muz and Fraser share a night of world-class entertainment alongside a piece of their heart.
Phelim McDermott, director of the fantastic Satyagraha at the ENO, brings all the pieces of the puzzle together and the collaboration with all artists involved shines through, as we are crying with laughter one moment, holding our breath and covering our eyes the next. It’s a sensual night full of humour, insight and truth – a very rare combination that both intrigues and shocks. If you haven’t fallen in love with the creative buzz at the Young Vic yet then make sure you treat yourself and see this show. But don’t be easily offended, as it does contain explicit sex between different variations of fruit.
Beauty and the Beast is playing at the Young Vic until 21 December. For more information and tickets, see the Young Vic Theatre website.
Photo by Sheila Burnett.