Review: La Belle et La Bête

by Lynn on June 10, 2012

in The Passionate Playgoer

At the Bluma Appel Theatre until June 12. Created and Directed by Michel Lemieux and Victor Pilon. Created and Written by Pierre-Yves Lemieux and Maureen Labonté. Set, costumes and accessories by Anne-Séguin Poirer. Original music Michel Smith. Starring: Diane D’Aquila, Bénédicte Décary, Stéphane Demers.

Produced by Lemieux Pilon 40 Art and Théâtre du Nouveau Monde.

This is not your regular Beauty and the Beast story. And it’s definitely not for kids. It’s not about a beast who will be transformed when a beautiful woman falls in love with him, kisses him and he turns into a handsome prince. This is a play about obsession, passion, and longing.

‘The Beast’ is a man scarred literally and figuratively by love. He loved a woman passionately and one day she left without a word. The Beast was desolate and in despair. He was so overcome with the loss of her he bashed his perfect face into a mirror, thus disfiguring himself. From then on he lives in an isolated castle, shrouded by a cloak and hood, seeing no one, except a mysterious Lady who acts as a kind of guardian spirit/fairy. Who is she? Is she in love with him? She is our narrator and is very coy about her relationship to him.

One day Belle enters his life. She is an artist who knows about pain. Her paintings depict it. She meets the Beast because she is returning a medallion that her father made for him as part of a shipment of 100. With that last one Belle’s father gave it to her instead of the Beast. To make good on the deal Belle is returning it. She is intrigued by the Beast. He is curious about her. She wants to paint him. He refuses but wants her to return the next day. She does. A relationship results. It’s a passionate affair. Obsessive. Compulsive. Desperate. Sexually charged. One day she leaves to spend time with her father. The Lady interferes and the relationship suffers. Again the Beast can’t cope with the loss. He does something drastic. Can Belle save him?

The vision of creators/directors Michel Lemieux and Victor Pilon is dazzling. They use hologram creations to interact with the characters. Belle’s hologramed sisters, a kind of ying and yang arrangement advise her in this relationship. The images are full of metaphoric references; a white stallion hologram gallops through Belle’s dreams; when the Beast bashes his face into the mirror, shards of glass in the form of animation and light blow into the audience.

The script by Pierre-Yves Lemieux and Maureen Labonté is as highly charged as you would expect from people out of the ordinary. The language is poetic and perhaps stilted, but I believe it for these characters. Every thing is heightened for them. They are more intense than your ordinary folk. I can appreciate it.

The production is not just technologically flashy. There are scenes between , Bénédicte Décary as Belle and Stéphane Demers as the Beast that are downright erotic and sensual thanks to the stillness and silence that directors Lemieux and Pilion infuse into those scenes. The two characters circle each other, sizing each other up. It’s a dangerous, compelling dance. Décary carries her demons with her, but she is so intrigued by this man. Demers is definitely wounded, but his stature and elegance is as compelling as she is. It’s a good match.

Narrating and manipulating in her own right is The Lady, played first with a coolness that then changes into a seductive mysteriousness by Diane D’Aquila. The Lady is dangerous. She knows how vulnerable The Beast is and how he can be touched by Belle. Is the Lady the Beast’s long lost love? A protective fairy? And evil fairy in Lady’s clothing? It’s a fascinating exercise to figure out which.

La Belle et La Bête is a fairy tale with an edge for adults. Don’t even think of bringing kids.

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