Caged is an engaging and thought-provoking reworking of Beauty and the Beast that uses the core story to address some key themes. It is aimed at young people aged 8+ but fairytales such as this one, especially one so well staged and acted, will hold the attention of any age as it deals with issues that concern us all.
The central message of Beauty and the Beast can be summed up with the old adage, ‘Don’t judge a book by its cover’ and more broadly explores the space between appearance and reality.
Usually the character of Beauty represents internal goodness and truth manifesting itself in physical beauty: she is perfect. In this version she wasn’t perfect, she was a bit prim, a bit fussy, horrified and disgusted with the state of the Beast’s castle, screaming cruelly with terror when she first sees him and, although admittedly out of fear, was relentlessly and needlessly rude to him until she gradually learnt to respond to the reality rather than the appearance of the Beast.
In the original story, despite his wild and ugly appearance, the Beast is revealed to be just like Beauty: civilised and beautiful on the inside.
While this was also true in this version, alongside the signs of his cultured personality – the piles of books he introduces her to, the single red rose he gives her, his knowledge of constellations, his patience and politeness with Beauty despite her rudeness – he also climbs onto the table to eat (in his boots!), tears at food with his hands and runs wildly through the woods at night.
Beauty, who one imagines has never run anywhere in her life, learns to becomes more like him. Day by day she abandons her pretty, restrictive manners, strips off her restrictive clothing and dressed only in shirt and bloomers runs wild in the country, gradually bonding with Beast.
The mood of this piece was vividly and dramatically conveyed through the combination of eerily disconcerting set and lighting designs and clever use of sound effects. Rosalind Sydney gave a compelling and believable performance as Beauty, while Andy Manley’s Beast, with echoes of Hurt’s Elephant Man, was subtly and gently played with a touching honesty and integrity.
The giddy humour that emerged through the character of Beauty, backed by an inspired, witty sound track was balanced by the Beast’s straight-faced sobriety. Caged successfully stripped away years of obscuring frills and adornment to reveal matters of consequence that will elicit discussion among people of all ages.
Caged is on tour across Scotland until 5 May 2011