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Beauty and the Beast review at Young Vic London

Not your traditional pantomime, this is a joyously explicit adaptation of the fairytale and an inspired exploration of disability, love, sex and honesty. Seasoned conceptual performers and real-life married couple Julie Atlas Muz and Mat Fraser play the eponymous roles, using the original story as a narrative template to express the tentative fear and excitement they felt when they first met.

They tell their tale with a candid charm, discarding the fourth wall and their clothes in equal measure. Fraser, who has Thalidomide-induced phocomelia, introduces himself and his “perfectly deformed arms” in a moment that encapsulates the easy intimacy with which both lead performers communicate with the audience.

The playful and often hilarious fantasy that follows winningly incorporates Jonny Dixon and Jess Mabel Jones’ impressive puppetry and projections with the burlesque and cabaret expertise of Fraser and Muz, the former Miss Coney Island who memorably describes the often-painful separations the NY-Lon couple endures.

The plentiful nudity may put off the prudish, but suitably expresses the need for openness as well as the revelation and acceptance of physical imperfection. In one of the most moving scenes, Fraser discards the long-sleeved garment he has worn as a decoy to expose himself as he really is. In so doing, this enchanting production shows us, the ‘beast’ becomes the beauty.

Production Information

Young Vic, London, December 13-21

Mat Fraser, Julie Atlas Muz
Phelim McDermott
One of Us Productions, Improbable Theatre Company
Mat Fraser, Julie Atlas Muz, Jonny Dixon, Jess Mabel Jones
Running time
1hr 20mins

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