Young Vic's brilliant, burlesque Beauty and the Beast - reviews

This subversive fairy tale playfully challenges ideas of romance and disability, but it's not for tots

LAST UPDATED AT 07:35 ON Thu 12 Dec 2013
What you need to know

A burlesque-inspired version of Beauty and the Beast, just opened at the Young Vic, London, has been praised for its bawdy, brilliant and challenging depiction of disability and romance.

This alternative Christmas show, which transfers from the Bristol Old Vic, stars husband and wife team, disabled British actor/writer Mat Fraser, and American burlesque star Julie Atlas Muz. Directed by Phelim McDermott, Beauty and the Beast blends the couple's own romantic history with puppetry, cabaret, burlesque and comedy in a saucy retelling of the classic tale. For over 16s. Runs until 21 December.

What the critics like

This subversive retelling of the Beauty and the Beast fairy tale doesn't miss a trick", says Matt Trueman in the Daily Telegraph. Raucous one moment, whip-sharp the next, like a thesis presented as a bawdy sideshow, this is beautiful, beastly brilliance.  
By playfully mixing a real-life love story with a fairy tale, this show "celebrates great gothic romance and also strips away all the artifice to reveal the workings underneath", says Lyn Gardner in The Guardian. It also takes disability out of the theatrical ghetto and presents it full frontal.
There's nudity and simulated sex, and yet such is the confidence of the performers that "none of it feels shocking purely for shock's sake", says Caroline Crampton on the Arts Desk. Muz and Fraser use their sexuality cleverly, challenging you to look away, while at the same time putting on a show of such wit and verve that you don't want it to end. 

What they don't like

At times the devised script is feeble compared to the show's visually inspired moments, but its provocative challenging of what's PC and what's not is fascinatingly complex, says Kate Bassett in The Times. "Just be warned: Beauty and the Beast is not for tots." · 

For further concise, balanced comment and analysis on the week's news, try The Week magazine. Subscribe today and get 6 issues completely free.