Pros: Engaging and absorbing throughout, even for the novice audience member.
Cons: Some sections didn’t feel as connected to the next as they could be. Also, the aural experience was no match for the visual.
I have a confession to make; I don’t do dance. I don’t mean that I sit in the corner at nightclubs scowling over my drink, I can shake a leg with the best of them when the right song comes on, but when it comes to watching it, I just don’t. I rarely understand it; I hardly ever enjoy it. It really is impressive then that dance piece Beauty of the Beast not only entertained me but I also got a lot out of the experience of it.
Theatregoing is an experience that starts way before the lights go down. Upon looking only at the surrounding circumstances, the show experience was not a great one. There was only one ticket, the foyer was crowded and the trains went to hell in a hand basket on the way home. And still, I had a good time.
So what was so exciting about this show that it managed to overcome not only its circumstances, but also my usual aversion to the art form? Well, it’s hard to pin it down, but it felt like, at least visually, a complete show. My engagement with it came on a few levels; it was aesthetically pleasing (and I don’t just mean the dancer’s physique) and actually said something meaningful about being a man today. Now, I’m clearly not a man living in today’s society but the undercurrents of peer pressure and pack mentality were recognisable for anyone.
Despite the significant points made in this show, there were also moments of comedy. Dialogue was used sparingly but effectively to create comedy, with just enough left out for it to feel slightly wacky. The only downside of these sections was that it meant the gentleman sat next to me would whisper translations (into Russian?) to his wife after every line, a little annoying.
This was one problem with the aural experience of this show; another was that the music seemed to be pouring solely out of one corner speaker at the top of stage left. This imbalance was disconcerting and could be a bit distracting at points. This was somewhat disappointing for a dance venue as you presume the acoustics of the music would be key to dance performances.
The music choices, however, were definitely up to standard, and surpassed my expectations in terms of their variety. From the classical oeuvre that I would usually associate with dance (from my limited experience), to hip hop and even metal. A particularly great song choice was Rage Against The Machine’s ‘Killing In The Name’, which when it poured out of the speakers, sorry. . . speaker, caused one audience member to involuntarily remark, “Tune.” The song and its message against police brutality were well used in a movement section that highlighted the bestial aggression men are capable of.
Although I did not connect fully with every section of the piece, there was something to be gained from each vignette, even if it was just admiration for the dancer’s athleticism. There was sometimes a bit of a lull between some of the sections though, and it could feel a little stilted. However this was only true in some cases, the overriding feeling was one of fluidity.
For an evening that promised little for me as an audience member, I got a whole lot from The Beauty of the Beast. Its engagement with the meaty subject matter of masculinity was clever and fully drew me in. In the end I was pleased I went. Since it took me three times as long as usual to get home, something usually grump-inducing, this says a lot.
Choreographer: Anthony Missen
Performers: Anthony Missen, Eryck Brahmania, Lee Clayden, Thomasin Gülgeç, Theo Fapohunda, Daniel Phung.
Dramaturg: Andrew Loretto
Music: Original music by Miguel Marin & Kevin Lennon.
Producer: Company Chameleon
Booking Info: Beauty of The Beast had only one London date, for tour information, go to http://www.companychameleon.com/tour-dates/