Beulah is a new take on a musical. That's what you need to know, first and foremost. Beulah is a new take.
Grab folk music, add a sprinkling of William Blake, a healthy dose of storytelling and some incredibly puppetry (that defies all the 'rules' of using puppets) and you'll be close. The result of this little potion is a fantastical, emotionally intense rollercoaster of a production, that breathes profoundly fresh ideas into everything you thought you knew about life.
The average 80 year old has slept for 23.3 years, or so our hosts Ed and Jim tell us. Within those two timeframes, we quantify everything - days, hours, minutes, seconds... Everything, and, as Jim and Ed explain, we can look at life so differently. In taking two stories - one featuring everyday people, one featuring lions, kings and queens - Alexander Wright's Blake inspired, new piece of theatre, takes you on the most mystical of journeys. Voiceovers, items of clothing, instruments you've never heard of - they all combine to create a whole new world that you'll wish you'd always experienced.
Musically, the show cannot be faulted. Mixing a variety of folk styles - familiar and not - the musicianship on display is magnificent. Tom Bellerby's direction too is subtle but exactly what the show needs - it gives order to disorder, sense to the nonsensical. The combination of talents that has culminated in this production shouldn't be sniffed at, and at its peak, they combine to make a truly beautiful piece of theatre.
Highlights cannot be separated. At each stage of the musical, I found myself questioning whether it could get any better. From the first few songs, to the chemistry between Jim and Ed, to the puppet-based movement sequence, this is a Titan of a show consistently building on and improving on what has gone before it.
So yes, this is a new take on a musical. Everything you expected, everything you wanted - it won't be given to you. Everything you didn't know you needed: that's what you'll be given. Beulah takes you on an incredible journey, and it is not one that can be explained, it's one that needs to be experienced.