THE team that brought Cinderella, The Nutcracker Prince and The Hunt For The Scroobious Pip to the Stephen Joseph Theatre winter stage are heading for outer space in a revamped traditional fairytale.
Writer Andrew Pollard and director Adam Sunderland return to Scarborough for the premiere of Beauty And The Beast – A Space Adventure: a family show with its “amazing set, twisted tale and futuristic characters".
“We had two thoughts behind this show,” says Adam. "One was that we tend to do a lot of Victoriana with a rustic feel and instead we wanted to do something with lots of chrome set in a future of touch-less computers in the year 2525.
“And yes, that old Zager And Evans song [In The Year 2525, number one in August 1969] is the opening number to the show, but it’s been given a remix.
“The other thought was that I was tired of seeing Beauty And The Beast with a blond, blue-eyed pretty Beauty, so we’ve gender-swapped. We now have a female Beast and a male Beau.”
Explaining the reasoning behind that eye-catching decision, Adam says: “It’s partly to avoid the cliché of body image, which is very much in the press right now, that thing of ‘What is beauty?’.
“From the director’s point of view, it’s wonderful for an actress [Rebecca Tanwen] to get this chance to play a part she normally wouldn’t; this earthy, gutsy creature.”
In Pollard’s new version, the space junk dealer known as Mother Ship has to leave her three sons to go on a dangerous space mission when faced with mounting debt and a shortage of food.
However, after Mother Ship crash lands on a floating space garden and encounters a strange creature, Veriditas, her bargaining skills are sorely tested and she discovers the price she must pay for picking the creature's flowers is to give away her son, Beau.
Growing up in isolation, Beau's only feelings of real emotion come from his love of old music which he mixes off salvaged vinyl records (hence the Zager And Evans number). As he readies himself to be propelled into space to live with an alien, he finds there are many questions to be answered: in a virtual world, how do you know who you really are? Just what is ‘beauty’? Can plants have lives? Are aliens beasts? And can you really love a robot like a brother?
Writer Andrew Pollard says: “Futuristic settings tend to be more the province of films rather than theatre, but we thought it would be fun and we were keen to take up the challenge. Interestingly, Alan Ayckbourn is one of the few playwrights who has been interested in writing about the future, so it seemed fitting to tackle a theatrical future world for children at the SJT.”
Adults can enjoy it too, especially the references to King Kong, ET and the 1946 French film version, La Belle Et La Bete, even naming Beau’s spaceship Cocteau after its director, Jean Cocteau.
Writer and director have gone further than ever before: to space and the future . “Andrew and I love being creative in our shows but still true to the original story sources that go back to before Victorian fairytales to Greek, Arabic, Middle Eastern, Chinese and Korean tales,” says Adam.
Beauty And The Beast – A Space Adventure runs at Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, until December 28. Box office: 01723 370541 or sjt.uk.com