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BEAUTY ANDTHE BEAST (article first published : 1999-12-19)

First staged in late 1997 as the premiere production of Durban's massively talented Creative Madness theatre company - comprising Peter Court, Greg King and Philippa Savage - this enchanting retelling of the popular fairytale is a classic piece of theatre and far and away the finest children's production I've seen in years. Originally presented to great success at Kwasuka Theatre, the show is now running at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre daily at 11h00 until Christmas Eve.

Starring Court, King and Savage, and a truly delightful collection of rod puppets and masks, all made by the trio, the tale is of a sweet merchant's daughter who reveals the inner beauty of a conceited prince turned into a beast for his lack of human kindness. Devised and scripted by the company, the hour-long fairytale (no interval) unfurls on a well-lit stage dominated by a man-sized book. This is tilted upwards, its pages turned from time to time to cleverly allow their bright pictures to provide the backdrops for a story that is extremely rich in its play on perspective and the power of imagination.

Highlights are the clever use of a large white sheet, which becomes a written letter one moment, then a flag and a ship's sail, then a blanket. Striking, too, are a well-choreographed dream sequence and two memorable moments involving perspective - one, in silhouette, showing a candle-carrying Beauty puppet morphing into the similarly dressed Philippa Savage, and the other involving puppet characters passing through an eerie forest of gnarled trees. Also worth special mention is the wonderfully evocative recorded score, dominant with strings and piano, by De Wet Wraight and Anthony Stonier. Beauty and the Beast is a show to be enjoyed by the young of all ages and if you get to take your children to only one production this festive season make sure this is your choice.




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