Four fairy tales from Europe, reimagined by the Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy, are brought to life at Greenside by the talented young cast of 1541. From the Emperor’s New Clothes to less well known classics, each is delivered with energy and clarity through a variety of physical theatre techniques.
It is a demanding piece that requires all members onstage for the duration of the show, and the more energy that the team puts into this, the greater the result shall be.
It is made clear from the opening chorus that we are not to expect a series of happy endings: this shall be a return to the Grimm Tales origins of fairy tale, where death and misery often go hand in hand with the magic and wonder that made it into the Disney films. 1541 have effectively captured the uplifting happy ending, but struggle at times to find the pathos that comes with more sombre themes. The group work well together throughout, using props and costume to help define changes of character and creating buildings, creatures and storms as an ensemble that carry the show along with pace and vivacity.
It is at times confusing that certain props are mimed and others provided onstage - particularly in The Emperor’s New Clothes, where invisible objects play a pivotal role in the plot. There is a lovely moment, however, in one story that combines simple puppetry with to-scale props that creates a very effective illusion of size, bringing a simple scene of a bird flying in the sky to life. The use of brief choral interludes and a delicate musical score on the guitar and the ukulele, provided by Bea Kinsey, help to structure the show and bring the chapters together. It is a demanding piece that requires all members onstage for the duration of the show, and the more energy that the team puts into this, the greater the result shall be.
With Beasts & Beauties being marketed as friendly for children, it is understandable that the more macabre stories are perhaps not pushed as far as they could be - there is definitely the potential to further develop the tones of loss, guilt and neglect that are touched upon at various points by different characters. Nonetheless, I would certainly recommend this as a lovely show for family entertainment and a refreshing break from the daily grind of the modern world.