‘The Beast and The Beauty’ was written by TV and Hollywood scriptwriter, David Stevens. The heritage-listed Old Mill Theatre on Mends Street, South Perth, is honoured to present this World Premiere. The two and a half hour play will run for an extended season, performing nightly at 8.00 pm until 14th July. There are two Sunday matinees 1st and 8th July at 2.00 pm.
The performance on Friday 22nd June was dedicated to the memory of our great friend, and totally dedicated theatre helper, Hywel Williams.
The gracious author, David Stevens, was kind enough to give a lecture to the theatregoers of Perth about his life in the entertainment / writing business. He was born in that part of Palestine that is now Israel, but now lives 150 kms north of Auckland in one of New Zealand’s top ten coastal resorts, the stunning Tutukaka.
His play ‘The Sum of Us’ was turned into a critically acclaimed film and won David the ‘AFI Best Play’ award. The Old Mill stage version also won several nominations and awards at the annual Finley Awards. From 1975 David wrote numerous, extremely well-known TV series, before concentrating on his scriptwriting in the late 80s. Based on his experiences living in a small country town, Stevens has re-invented the classic fable of ‘Beauty and the Beast’ and set it in the Australian outback. Follow Cathy Prastides’ poster of the year and try not to miss this outstanding production.
It is 1860 on the NSW sheep station called Victory. A horrendous bushfire has just raged through the area killing most of the stock and some of the inhabitants. With heavy hearts, the station’s Aboriginal cook, Jack (Trevor Ryan), along with station manager, Angus (Rex Gray) and Jackaroo, Phil (David Partridge) are searching through the embers, killing off damaged sheep. Suddenly they come across the owners’ baby son, Tom, terribly scarred by the fire. On finding that Tom’s parents have both been killed in the fire, the local vicar (Tim Prosser) says that he will look after the child’s welfare and schooling.
Twenty years later, a stockman (Kit Leake) rushes into the still burnt-out homestead to tell his boss, young Tom (Matt Elverd alternating nights with Phil Barnett) that they have found a drunk, passed out in their billet. The drunk is Irish Seamus (Noel O’Neill), who does a deal with Tom, that he will send his daughter, Belle (Anastasia Ward) to work as a housekeeper in return for grog money. With Tom’s only neighbours being in the nearby town of Tooraloo, the local storekeeper, Mr Finlay (Chris Thomas), his wife Irene (Gillian Shilling) and the local ‘social worker’ Jessie (Maree Grayden) he desperately needs a housekeeper. With young station workers like body-perfect Andy (Matt Young) and Larrikin (Chris Northover) a female presence would more than welcome.
Can the sheep station stagger on? Or will it collapse into ruin?
The outstanding director is ‘local lad’ Mark DeFriest, who has more than 800 hours of television drama to his credit. As well as the many international films, he is known locally for directing children’s serials such as ‘Ocean Girl’ and ‘Ship to Shore’. It was a real coup for the Old Mill to get him as a director. DeFriest has obviously decided upon a slow, exhaustive casting process, in order to do his friend’s exceptional work justice.
Right from the beginning, the lonely unloved Tom turns to the audience as his caring, listening ear. There was considerable passive audience involvement. The ‘stage’ covered every inch, from the back of the stage to the rear of the seating, every corner of the theatre was employed. By involving the audience thus, you found yourself to be a member of the station household – and really caring about what was unfolding on the stage.
Michael Trestrail was given the unenviable task of being Production Manager. With around two dozen locations being required, set designer Ruth Levi, along with set construction leader, Owen Ross and scenic artist, Tim Prosser had to think laterally. On arrival in the auditorium the audience are greeted by an open curtain and a totally empty stage surrounded with simple black drapes. As the play progressed – thanks to stage managers Megan Burley and Barbara Lovell - curtains partially opened and closed, revealing yet another quality set. The farm implements of the era were all genuine and working. The costumes required included dirty farm workers, beautiful, sexy, religious, old maid and staid, but in the hands of Rose Benson, Jenny Prosser and assistant Thérèse Cruise, the period was captured to perfection.
The unique makeup (Siouxane Martincic, assisted by Daniella Piscopo) demands for this play was extraordinary, with the latex from a 100 rubber trees being required – well almost. The strength of the direction continued to be shown by the teching. John Woolrych’s lighting design was well considered, his technicians (Ben Davis and Geoff Holt) had a dozen areas of the auditorium to light selectively, carefully picking out the action and leaving the other areas in darkness. Kathryn Carney’s light operation, along with the sound operation of the sound designer Graeme Johnson, gave us the perfect bush creation. This sanctioned the split second entrances and exits, along with the unobtrusive and slick props movements.
The acting was outstanding, not a weak link to be seen. The pace perfect, the atmosphere wonderful and terrific teamwork – the reason for such quality, is powerful and focused direction of a clever script. You are hesitating because you are expecting a heavy going piece? Forget it, this was truly hilarious with some great lines.
This is a happening, one where you feel as though you have been right there, a century ago in the remote bush. The line between the professional theatre and the community theatre is becoming thinner by the day.
Sometimes friendship... is a stroke of misfortune.