The Old Mill Theatre is staging the world premiere of the latest play from Hollywood writer and director David Stevens this June, best known for The Sum of Us, A Town Like Alice and Breaker Morant.
Described as a “love story re-invented”, The Beast and The Beauty re-works the classic tale of magic and enchantment and sets it in the Australian outback of the late 1880s.
The so-called beast is an ordinary man, horribly disfigured in a bushfire as a baby.
Director Mark DeFriest is bringing the show to life, a veteran of more than 800 hours of television drama in the US and Australia.
His credits include Cop Shop, The Sullivans, Prisoner, The Flying Doctors, Chances, Ocean Girl, Ship To Shore, Streetsmartz and the Doctor Who spin-off K-9, among many others.
“The Beast and Beauty removes the mythical aspects from the original tale,” DeFriest said.
“It ponders the question: if the beast always remains the beast, will love still conquer all?
“This is a story of an Aussie bloke, trying to make a go of it, despite what the nightmare of bushfire has done to him.
“The main character, Tom, grows up isolated on the family station he inherited – until a new housekeeper grows to understand him, unlike her predecessors.”
Stevens said Australia had few fables and fairy stories but he always wanted to write one.
“I started to think of the legend of Beauty and The Beast but without the transformation,” he said.
“It's always seemed odd that Belle falls in love with the beast but he is transformed into the world's most handsome man. My attitude is ‘Who's this drongo, where's my beast?’
“I wondered how the legend could be changed to Australia and it wasn't a big jump from there to bushfire.”
Drawing on his own sense of his community, based on his experiences living in a small New Zealand country town, Stevens didn’t want to do The Beast and The Beauty as a modern story.
“In the old days, people who lived in the bush only had each other to depend on,” he said. “There wasn't a flying doctor then.
“I thought about old Australia and what would have happened to a burns victim.
“I started to see him as a burns survivor, saved by the villagers who now feel responsible for him.
“But what would happen to that disfigured man when he grew up? How would he find love?
“And because Australia is upside down, it became The Beast and the Beauty.” The Old Mill Theatre previously staged Stevens’ The Sum of Us in early 2008, winning several nominations and awards at the annual Finley Awards.
This prompted Stevens and DeFriest to tour the theatre last year, after a Perth Actors’ Collective script lab reading of The Beast and The Beauty.
“David and myself were impressed with the facilities on offer and the Old Mill Theatre seemed ideal to stage the world premiere of this play, especially given its success with The Sum of Us,” DeFriest said.
“After an exhaustive casting process, I’m pleased to say we’ve got a strong team that will make this an extremely memorable production.
“Matt Elverd, and his understudy Phil Barnett, will both undergo extensive make-up treatments to play the extremely disfigured Tom – it’s another challenge for us but one we’re well-prepared to meet.”
The Beast and The Beauty plays at 8pm, June 22, 23, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, July 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 10, 11, 12, 13 and 14 with 2pm matinees July 1 and 8.
Tickets are $25, $20 concession – book on 9367 8719 or email@example.com.
The heritage-listed Old Mill Theatre is on Mends Street, South Perth, opposite the Windsor Hotel and Australia Post. More information is available at www.oldmilltheatre.com.au and www.markdefriest.com.au.
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