Beards! Beards! Beards! &ndash, a joint production between the stunning Trick of the Light Theatre and Show Pony &ndash, wonderfully straddles the line between a Gilbert &, Sullivan sensibility and the Flight of the Conchords kind of kinkier, anarchic humour. Beard styles for light beards.
Directed with clear and bright acuity by Hannah Smith, the play is mined for each opportunity and highlights the pun-laden script, revealing clever comedy while keeping a real heart for the protagonist. Beatrix has realized that no-one will take her seriously unless she, like many white old men before her, is the proud owner of a beard. Her fathers, Barbershop owners (and singers), support her in her dreams but are unable to help.
Like all good Disney, all it takes is the driving desire to be wished aloud (it helps if you cut your hair and there's lightning) and you might just get what you wish for.
In comes Saint Wilgefortis, patron saint of bearded women, and Beatrix is granted three wishes to help her meet history's most famous people. Cue the montage. And off she goes towards her quest and, of course, finding what she needs most.
This is a musical comedy and the songs are apt, witty and fun with the three actors covering a huge range of styles with aplomb. Playwright Ralph McCubbin Howell also performs, with Abby Howells and Paul Waggott. All three whip through the story with a vast amount of energy, with Waggott and McCubbin-Howell taking the lion's share of multiple roles. Each brings their own particular blend of performance styles.
Beard styles for light beards
As Beatrix, Abby Howells makes the most of her somewhat quirky delivery style: charmingly sweet and naï,ve with bursts of bossy when the narrative isn't doing it's job telling her story the way she wants it. Her growing experience in stand-up and theatre performance has grown an assured and commanding presence that is reminiscent of Lucille Ball.
Paul Waggot gets the best beard ever as Saint Wilgerfortis. While funnily glassy eyed in some of the dance routines (this is my first time and I'm told in the bar afterwards that there are more songs than in previous productions), he clearly defines his coterie of characters with vaudevillian physicality.
Perhaps it's because he wrote it, that McCubbin Howell stands out in this performance. His is the most assured and complete performance, hitting every pun without bashing it out, and filling every movement with just enough verve to make it delightful but not focus stealing. My eye is continuously drawn to his enthusiasm and energy.
Gareth Hobbs' music and sound allows some scintillating singing while keeping in support of the clever lyrics (very G&,S). The sound design, like Marcus McShane's simple lighting, appears just when and where it needs to, never intrusive, but delightful.
Ed Watson's set design strikes a fine line between permanence and tourability without losing any sense of panache. Barbershop poles and dividers provide a backdrop to perform against and the barber's mirror provides a &lsquo,coup de theatre', not only reflecting the customers face but providing the single metaphor that grounds this piece: What do we see in the mirror? Is it what other people see when they look at us? What would we change? Is our face just an illusion covering what is &lsquo,real' inside?
This is a very full and delicious theatre experience for adults and children alike. Hannah Smith has worked brilliantly to get the best out of her team, each aspect fully supporting the others and combining to make a great evening's entertainment with a heart and a message.
There are a lot of smiley faces at the end of this performance. We can all be extremely proud that it is this kind of production that audiences overseas will be attending.
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Beard styles for light beards
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