Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Just when you thought it was safe to leave Transylvania, another irresistible beast...

What do you get when a born freak, a former beauty queen and an award-winning director tell the true story of Beauty and the Beast? asks the promo for this ONEOFUS/Improbable touring co-production visiting Bristol en route to London. The answer is a full house in BOV studio and a stunning show, impressive as much for its honesty, humour & humanity as for its startlingly erotic interpretation of this classic fairytale. Mat Fraser, probably UK’s best-known disabled actor, uses his deformity to become a beautiful beast to Julie Atlas Muz, burlesque artiste from Detroit, his feisty fairy-tale captive and real-life wife.
 “What better way to make a fairy tale than to fall in love?” Julie asks the audience at the start as the couple introduce themselves to us with an intimacy that becomes integrated with the performance as personal anecdotes and private moments in their own story are spliced into the legend. Silently assisting these two extraordinary performers, puppeteers Jonny Dixon and Jess Jones dexterously manipulate props and contribute much to the wit as well as the glamour of this amazing study of human emotions: fear, lust, loss, loneliness, tenderness, and finally redemption through love.
There’s a lot to laugh at too: from complicit looks to the audience at dramatic moments to a raunchy banquet scene which would make Tom Jones look like taking tea with Philip Larkin. The final scene strips any last vestige of vanilla from the traditional fantasy as bridal Beauty stares at her newly-transformed Prince Charming, yells “Where’s my beast?” and tears off both their clothes again ~ most of the story has been performed naked ~ to create a fittingly explicit finale with the puppeteers as rose-strewing cherubs to their erotic romance.  Mat and Julie are supernova stars, but it clearly took teamwork to devise this unforgettable show, with special credit to Philip Eddols for the atmospheric set, Kevin Pollard for exquisite costumes, and director Phelim McDermott.

Frome saw a small surge of sensuousness too, when the Lip Smacking Chocolate Festival arrived on Sunday to fill the Cheese & Grain with all things chocolatey, syropy, and luscious. Sacchariferous consumables are currently off limits for me but the aroma was ambrosial, and entrants in the lip-smacking limerick competition were olfactorarily inspired, according to judge Muriel Lavender. (I only made up one of those words, btw.) Here's my entry, declared by Mlle Lavender as quintessentially about her and thus winning a place in the runners-up:
If I was a champagne truffle
I'd lie round all day on a ruffle,
     Dance with Viennese Whirls,
     Flirt with Caramel Swirls ~
I bet that would cause a kerfuffle.
First prize went to Jackie Cornish aka Miss Marshmellow. I think it was a big box of chocolates...

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