Review: Beyond Beauty, The Last Refuge ✭✭✭✭

Hidden in a darkly lit alleyway, The Last Refuge transports its audience into another world. Swept away by a charming live piano, and mesmerised by the pages of text which cover the walls, the foyer is the perfect host, creating an ambience of expectation and creativity.

Beyond Beauty constructs and redefines itself in full view of its audience. Ron Hutchinson’s writing revels in contrasts and stereotypes as it extends the fairytale of Sleeping Beauty. In Hutchinson’s revision of this recognisable fable, the audience is allowed to witness the creation of the story, and the living of the tale simultaneously. The ushers tuck in the audience with a blanket, evoking a childish familiarity of storytelling at bed-time. James Turner’s design is meticulous; intricate gowns and corsets coupled with fur hoods and baseball caps. The desolate and crumbling castle is littered with ivy and plays host to a meek, discoloured chandelier. As traditional Royalties crash into contemporary London, the space becomes a constant contradiction between the decorative past and the living present.

The brilliance of, and necessity of play, is enjoyed throughout the performance.

Simon Pollard’s direction basks in the childish excitement of storytelling and fairytales. Pollard plays with an amusing script, inserting fake ironic reveals and fabulous entrances and exists. The brilliance of, and necessity of play, is enjoyed throughout the performance. In moments of sincerity this production discusses the importance of prose and the foundations laid by Aristotle. However, at the click of their fingers, the characters re-enter their own world of imagination and well-crafted theatricality. Every character in Beyond Beauty is presented as a clearly defined stereotype, much to the enjoyment and infuriation of The Storyteller. As played by Natalie Harmon The Storyteller mocks her co-stars and audience with a cheeky and brash heartiness. Harmon’s ability to manipulate and inject energy into the story makes the character fantastic to watch. Another commendable performance is given by David Eaton as Jack of all Trades. Eaton is the perfect host to a number of roles, including the bad-tempered actor grumbling about having to multi-role. The audience is charmed by his dedication and excited by his entrance in anticipation of the character he will play next.

This charming and nostalgic celebration of childhood makes Rebel Theatre’s production at The Last Refuge a fantastic exploration of playfulness and creativity. Although the piece is not perfect, its youth and excitement will warm the hearts of any audience.

**** (4 stars)
Runs until December 15th
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