Beauty and the Beast The Old Rep Theatre

Beauty and the Beast The Old Rep Theatre

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Posted 2022-11-19 by dpmfollow

Fri 18 Nov 2022 - Fri 16 Dec 2022

Beauty and the Beast comes to Birmingham's The Old Rep Theatre this month in a Christmas extravaganza for all the family. And the show, performed by students at Birmingham Ormiston Academy, may have a couple of surprises for audiences.

Director Alec Fellowes-Bennett explains: "Everyone thinks they know Beauty and the Beast but we have made a few changes to the version they think they know. We've gone back to the original French story which airs, as all of those French stories do, more on the side of a morality tale than people might realise. So our show is set in the world of fairytales but it certainly asks you to look at the morality and the social and family costs of decisions that are made."



One of these decisions is made by Beauty's father. "In the original fairytale the Beast offers to release her father if he will send one of his daughters in his place. I have a daughter and coming at that scene now from the angle of a father I can't believe there is any decision to be made there – you would just stay in the castle forever, you certainly wouldn't send your daughter in replacement. And yet in the story he goes back and sends one of his daughters."

The creative team of writer Toby Hulse, composer Steve Allan Jones and Alec have also made one other adaptation which asks audiences to question an important element of the tale. "We've set it within a school, so the children are being told the story of Beauty and the Beast on their last day before they break up for the Christmas holidays. At the end of the story, the class debates whether the Beast needs to change his appearance in order to be loved."

Alec says the team decided to introduce this discussion after having the debate themselves as they created the work. "We decided it was no good us just having that discussion and then making a decision. We need to show the audience that discussion so they can also have it. I will always defend theatre's right to simply entertain but if you can spark a debate as well then that's got to be better. It's a discussion the people on stage have with the people in the auditorium - but I won't tell you which side they come down on."

For Alec, this is part of keeping such fairytales relevant to today's audiences. "The role of the story is to serve that community and that culture as that culture goes forward so it's right to change them so they can become loved for their changes as much as the story itself. If a story is now seen as not politically correct, don't shelve it, have the debate, have the conversation, the story is there to be used."

This Christmas is the seventh year that BOA and The Old Rep have jointly produced a family festive show with previous productions including Treasure Island, Alice in Wonderland, Pinocchio and The Wind in the Willows.

Launched in the city centre in 2011, BOA specialises in teaching creative, digital and performing arts. An independent state-funded academy sponsored by the Ormiston Trust and Birmingham City University, the group comprises BOA Birmingham Ormiston Academy, BOA Stage and Screen Academy and BOA Digital Academy.

Bringing together a creative professional team with BOA students, the Christmas productions give the young people valuable theatrical experience while offering Birmingham audiences a new and fun-filled musical. This festive season nearly 100 graduate year students will take to the stage in four separate casts and students will also be working on lighting, props, costumes and other elements of the show.

Initially planned for 2020, Covid-19 and lockdowns have delayed Beauty and the Beast so Alec and the team are looking forward to finally sharing it with audiences. "Ticket sales are going extremely well, especially for the school shows," he says. "Theatre is important for children as there are so few collective experiences now, particularly for little ones. There's nothing like that experience of being in that collective room going through those emotions together, particularly for a child. And with people who are acknowledging that you are there, not a telly that just carries on regardless of you. That is such a unique and such a social-building experience."

For Alec The Old Rep has fond memories because he first trod its boards as a student with Birmingham Stage School 30 years ago. "The Old Rep is such a special place," he says. "People forget how important The Old Rep is in terms of the history of theatre and how many really famous actors started their careers in that building. I have been besotted with the building and its history ever since I first went there."

And he adds: "It's such a classic theatre. I always say that if you asked a child to draw a theatre it would look like The Old Rep. You walk in there and you know immediately the building couldn't be anything but a theatre. This Beauty and the Beast is made for the people of Birmingham and the wider area, people who love that theatre. I'd say that if you've not seen our shows before, come and discover Beauty and the Beast and The Old Rep Theatre. It's the most magical little space with a really magical show."

Beauty and the Beast plays The Old Rep between18 November to 16 December, see www.oldreptheatre.co.uk

#things_to_see
#theatres
#theatre
#musicals
#family
#christmas
#central_birmingham
#november
!date 18/11/2022 -- 16/12/2022
%wnbirmingham
70813 - 2023-01-26 01:49:34

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