In this exhilarating, disturbing exploration of the human mind, there is a cornucopia of theatrical styles, from the visually spectacular, breathtaking use of puppetry, to the slick, well-rehearsed stage combat and physical theatre. Combine all of that with an engaging, painfully truthful narrative of a troubled father/daughter relationship, and you have
It's like nothing I’ve seen before, and paves the way for a new style of presenting such relevant, important issues, through a visceral, dynamic, awe-inspiring production
In order to cope with the recent death of her mother, our protagonist Ellie (Hannah Lawrence) constructs a fantasy world in which she becomes Blaze, a superhero responsible for restoring justice in “Paradise City”. The piece moves at a rapid pace, jumping from reality to fantasy in the blink of an eye. This effective use of juxtaposition emphasises Blaze’s sense of purpose and adventurous lifestyle, contrasting Ellie’s lack of sense of belonging in the real world.
Visually, I AM BEAST is stunning. The cast are all experts in movement and visual storytelling, often communicating so much more with their bodies than their words. Three of the cast also puppeteer “Beast”, the impressive life-size creature that infiltrates Ellie’s mind, in a display of the most accomplished puppeteering I have seen on stage. The Beast is given his own personality, and his movements are eerily realistic.
Not only is I AM BEAST an impressive spectacle, but it's also fundamentally a realist drama following Ellie’s relationship with her father, Michael (Owen G. Bevan). Lawrence and Bevan convincingly convey their increasingly distant relationship, and we truly feel Michael’s pain as he desperately tries to reach out to his daughter. In Ellie’s fantasy world, Bevan also plays Dr Oblivion, Blaze’s evil nemesis. As with the rest of the actors, they also play a character in the fantasy world who is a reflection of how Ellie sees them in the real world, allowing us a deeper understanding of Ellie’s psyche.
The play artfully balances the light and shade throughout, contrasting the darker scenes with light comedic moments. Several of these come from Nicholas Halliwell, who gives a hilarious performance as the absurd newscaster Scott Havoc, who seems to channel Jim Carrey into this role. Furthermore, the play pays homage to the comic book genre, with extravagant fight scenes of Blaze beating anonymous henchmen to a pulp, and a wonderful original score by Lawrence Illsey, who plays live.
I AM BEAST crosses so many genres and styles, yet still manages to be very specific in its focus and its narrative. Its originality is inspiring, and among the large-scale, highly energetic production, there are certain moments that evoked within me an intense emotional response, with all credit to the large creative team who have put this play together. It's like nothing I’ve seen before, and paves the way for a new style of presenting such relevant, important issues, through a visceral, dynamic, awe-inspiring production.