Review: Beauty itself takes the stage in subversive re-telling of a fairy tale

Beauty and the Beast by OneOfUs With Improbable, Warwick Arts Centre. Last show tonight (November 27). Box office: 024 7652 4524.

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Beauty and the Beast is a subversive re-telling of the classic fairy tale, and a tender, funny, erotic, true story of husband and wife performers Matt Fraser and Julie Atlas Muz.

Matt Fraser, you may know, is one this country’s leading disabled actors. He is also the proud owner of the title Best Male Striptease Artist 2007. Julie Atlas Muz is a burlesque dancer, artist director and the holder of Miss Exotic World title. They met on Coney Island while he was fronting a freak show revue. They fell in love, married and have worked together on and off ever since. That is one strand of the show. The other is an adult pantomime performance of Beauty and the Beast. The two tales mirror each other. Not that force was involved in the real-life story: from what we see theirs was love from the start.

The show combines the skills of two brilliant puppeteers, Jess Jones and Jonny Dixon, and a host of special effects featuring natural elements of light, shadow, bodies, and of course fruit. The stage is dressed up as a cross between a burlesque boudoir and camp horror scene. The costumes, especially Ms Muz’s, are, as you’d expect, gorgeous, though Matt and Julie are naked on stage for much of the show.

They are beautiful to look at, and from what we saw on stage, beautiful people too. But it is beauty itself which is really on show. And what a splendid, complex thing it is too.

Nick Le Mesurier