Adelaide Festival: Beauty and the Beast

Beauty and the Beast. Photo by Bronwen Sharp, Adelaide Festival of Arts
Beauty and the Beast. Photo by Bronwen Sharp, Adelaide Festival of Arts

There is nothing like falling into a great fairy-tale, and we have a real beauty here, and it’s about as manic, moving and mischievous as it can get.

American burlesque star, Julie Atlas Muz and British disabled performer, Mat Fraser are our Beauty and Beast; and there is no holding back in the unique show that they deliver to tell us the parallel and often entwining tales of their real life love and the fable that most of us know.

Their romantic adventure unfolds through stylised direct address and the olden-day story slides fabulously into the magic and imagined – but together, they never let go of the comparisons and links between both worlds that we as an audience slip in and out of.

With (often hilarious) help from the two puppeteers (and anything else assistants on stage), in multiple and far-ranging performance genres, including puppetry and dance, and beginning with a cute overhead projector cartoon presentation, they tell us of their meeting and blossoming love: Miss Burlesque Coney Island meets her ideal man; and then on a more serious note later, share that in some people’s eyes (including Julie’s mothers) disability is not ever seen as so ideal.

[pull_left]The scene where Mat baths and washes is a real eye opener, and offers plenty of food for thought without saying a thing[/pull_left]

(For me) there was a slightly twisted variety show feel about the extensive collection of devices used to impart the tales, with so many changes in craft and technique. But all elements were presented so competently, and the blending of the modern and medieval directed so solidly by Phelim McDermott, that we happily go from one form to the other to reach the conclusion of both stories. The perfectly patchy blend makes this eccentric and often risky show rocket along at full speed; and it’s so naughty, and gets naughtier and raunchier by the moment.

Amongst the gorgeous (and sort of gothic) chaos, and within the divine set design of drapes and roses there is no ignoring Mat’s disability. He shares his experiences openly and honestly in the coinciding stories; but he (or his beauty) never preach to us, using dark wit and warmth throughout to lighten what must have been some very challenging life situations. The scene where Mat baths and washes is a real eye opener, and offers plenty of food for thought without saying a thing. And that is clever theatre.

This pantomime-ish show which (towards the end) drifts into a comic almost porn play – pushes the sex and nakedness to the maximum, and it’s so full-on! But the comfortable and funny nature of the simulated and very risqué sex scenes (with all on stage ending up naked) is endearing, inclusive and courageous. And we all end up in absolute stitches as the on stage fucking scene gets frantic!

Though in the guise of a fairy-tale this show tells it like it really is, and that’s what is so refreshing about it. In its magnificent total odd ball style it is essentially a piece about human beings and love, and how disability doesn’t have to in any way dampen fun, desirability or beauty.

Stephen House

Stephen is a writer with numerous plays, exhibitions and short films produced. He has been commissioned often and directs and performs his work. He has won two AWGIE Awards from The Australian Writers Guild and an Adelaide Fringe Award (as well as more), and has received several international literature residencies. Stephen has been Artistic Director of many events. He has been performing his acclaimed solo show, “Appalling Behaviour” nationally from 2010 – 2014 (100 shows to date). Stephen has 2 new works in development.

Stephen House

One thought on “Adelaide Festival: Beauty and the Beast

  • Great article, but I think the artist with a disability might not like to be referred to as a “disabled artist”? Worth asking them 🙂


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