Beasts & Beauties

Beauty and the Beast without Gaston? In Italy?! If you can get over the sacrilege of daring to be different from the Disney version of events, Beasts and Beauties, by young company Grey Dog Theatre, offers a light but fun hour of entertainment for children young and old.

A lighthearted romp through some of the classic tropes of traditional fairy tales; you laugh, wonder, and maybe learn something along the way.

Beasts and Beauties recreates a series of fairy tales – some familiar, some not – by weaving together music, choreography, and storytelling into an exuberant hour of family-friendly fun. If this sounds like something you’ve seen before, chances are it is, but the originality of the stories, adapted by Poet-Laureate Carol Ann Duffy, keeps thing fresh for the most part. The stories vary in tone from outright farce – like The Husband who had to Mind the House – to something quite a bit darker – like the opening tale, Bluebeard. A personal favorite was The Three Wishes, which was easily the shortest in the show and which features a hilariously incapable couple, an almost too-obliging fairy, and a link of tasty black pudding. The main tale here is, obviously, Beauty and the Beast. As previously mentioned, it’s different from the Disney film, closer instead to Beaumont’s original short story, and the experience is richer for it.

The performances varied in quality but were, on the whole, strong. The narrators shifted from tale to tale, but consistently told an engaging story and kept the plot moving at a satisfying pace. The music was somewhat more of a mixed bag. Despite the prettiness of the songs, throughout the singing was muddled, and lyrics were hard to understand clearly. This problem was compounded when the entire company joined in; there were some excellent singers in the group, but more attention should have been paid to sharpening the speech and staying in unison. An exception to this rule was the fiddle, expertly played, which always elevated the overall sound with cute little tricks and soaring melodies. I should have liked even more of it. The choreographed elements – dancing, moving to become part of the world, and changing the set from tale to tale – at times were sloppy, but were carried out with an exuberance and gusto that kept the play moving and smiles on faces.

Beasts and Beauties knows what it is, and accomplishes what it sets out to do: it’s a lighthearted romp through some of the classic tropes of traditional fairy tales; you laugh, wonder, and maybe learn something along the way. Occasional hiccups in execution aren’t enough to dampen the mood, and the result is a lively show suitable for anyone with a wish, or three. 

Reviews by Jared Liebmiller

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The Blurb

Beasts & Beauties erupts in Edinburgh with an explosive blend of magic, monsters and mystery – a musical adventure into unpredictable fairy tales re-imagined by Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy. Expect puppets, physical theatre and excessive fiddle playing. Fun for all!