Saturday, June 16th, 2012 - Old Mill Theatre
THE Old Mill Theatre is staging the world premiere of the latest play from Hollywood writer and director David Stevens this June, best known for The Sum of Us, A Town Like Alice and Breaker Morant.

Described as a “love story re-invented”, The Beast and The Beauty re-works the classic tale of magic and enchantment and sets it in the Australian outback of the late 1880s.

The so-called beast is an ordinary man, horribly disfigured in a bushfire as a baby.

Director Mark DeFriest is bringing the show to life, a veteran of more than 800 hours of television drama in the US and Australia.

His credits include Cop Shop, The Sullivans, Prisoner, The Flying Doctors, Chances, Ocean Girl, Ship To Shore, Streetsmartz and the Doctor Who spin-off K-9, among many others.

The Beast and Beauty removes the mythical aspects from the original tale,” DeFriest said.

“It ponders the question: if the beast always remains the beast, will love still conquer all?

“This is a story of an Aussie bloke, trying to make a go of it, despite what the nightmare of bushfire has done to him.

“The main character, Tom, grows up isolated on the family station he inherited – until a new housekeeper grows to understand him, unlike her predecessors.”

Stevens said Australia had few fables and fairy stories but he always wanted to write one.

“I started to think of the legend of Beauty and The Beast but without the transformation,” he said.

“It's always seemed odd that Belle falls in love with the beast but he is transformed into the world's most handsome man. My attitude is ‘Who's this drongo, where's my beast?’

“I wondered how the legend could be changed to Australia and it wasn't a big jump from there to bushfire.”

Drawing on his own sense of his community, based on his experiences living in a small New Zealand country town, Stevens didn’t want to do The Beast and The Beauty as a modern story.

“In the old days, people who lived in the bush only had each other to depend on,” he said. “There wasn't a flying doctor then.

“I thought about old Australia and what would have happened to a burns victim.

“I started to see him as a burns survivor, saved by the villagers who now feel responsible for him.

“But what would happen to that disfigured man when he grew up? How would he find love?

“And because Australia is upside down, it became The Beast and the Beauty.” [NOTE: More from David Stevens available at end of release]

The Old Mill Theatre previously staged Stevens’ The Sum of Us in early 2008, winning several nominations and awards at the annual Finley Awards.

This prompted Stevens and DeFriest to tour the theatre last year, after a Perth Actors’ Collective script lab reading of The Beast and The Beauty.

“David and myself were impressed with the facilities on offer and the Old Mill Theatre seemed ideal to stage the world premiere of this play, especially given its success with The Sum of Us,” DeFriest said.

“After an exhaustive casting process, I’m pleased to say we’ve got a strong team that will make this an extremely memorable production.

“Matt Elverd, and his understudy Phil Barnett, will both undergo extensive make-up treatments to play the extremely disfigured Tom – it’s another challenge for us but one we’re well-prepared to meet.”

The Beast and The Beauty plays at 8pm, June 22, 23, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, July 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 10, 11, 12, 13 and 14 with 2pm matinees July 1 and 8.

Tickets are $25, $20 concession – book on (08) 9367 8719 or [email protected]

The heritage-listed Old Mill Theatre is on Mends Street, South Perth, opposite the Windsor Hotel and Australia Post. More information is available at www.oldmilltheatre.com.au and www.markdefriest.com.au.

CAPTIONS

beast1: Matt Elverd is the beast Tom in the world premiere of The Beast and The Beauty with Anastatia Ward as Belle.

beast2: Matt Elverd gets caught up between his love for Belle (Anastatia Ward, right) and working girl Jessie (Maree Grayden, left) in The Beast and The Beauty.

beast-noel: Matt Elverd, left, falls in love Belle (Anastatia Ward) in The Beast and The Beauty, much to the chagrin of her father Seamus (Noel O’Neill, right).


DAVID STEVENS

On why he wrote The Beast and The Beauty:
“Australia has very few myths and fables and not many fairy stories. I suppose this is because it is difficult to think of magic and spells and good fairies with wands given Australia has such a recent history. But I’ve always wanted to write one.

“I was taking an adult French education class and, as an exercise, I had written a couple of the shorter Maori legends in French. Driving home one night, I wondered what my next essay would be and I started to think of the legend of The Beauty and the Beast – but without the transformation.

“It's always seemed odd to me that Belle falls in love with the beast but he is then transformed into the world's most handsome man. I suppose my attitude would be ‘Who's this drongo, where's my beast?’

“So I started to write it as a French essay but without the transformation – the beast is and always will be that. It was well-received by my class and, driving home, I wondered how the legend could be changed to Australia.

“It wasn't a big jump from there to bushfire. Not the great Australian legend but the great Australian nightmare.

“What happens to a good Aussie bloke whose face has been destroyed by fire? There can never be any magic spells for him.”


On why he set it in Australia:
“I didn't want to do it as a modern story because it would be a bit different now. In the old days, people who lived in the bush, the outback, and only had each other to depend on. There wasn't a flying doctor then.

“This tied in with my own sense of community – I live in woop-woop, in a small village, and we often have foul, destructive weather. When that happens, the whole village pitches in to help each other.

“So I thought about old Australia, the place in all our dreaming, and what would have happened to a burns victim then. I started to see him as a burns survivor, saved by the villagers who now feel responsible for him.

“I tried to imagine what it would be like if a baby had been caught in a bushfire and is found burned – but alive. What would the rescuers do with him? Would they let him live, horribly disfigured, or would they save him and look after him?

“What would happen to that disfigured man when he grew up? How would he find love?

“And because Australia is upside down, it became The Beast and the Beauty.”

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Old Mill Theatre


South Perth's Old Mill Theatre is fortunate to be operating out of one of the most historic buildings in South Perth. It was opened in 1899 as a Mechanics' Institute Hall. The South Perth Council purchased the building in 1913 and renamed it the Mends Street Hall. The council still owns the building, and supports our use of it.

The building first became a home of theatre in 1948, when the South Perth Dramatic Society moved in. The name Old Mill Theatre was first used in 1958, and the company was incorporated in 1959. In 2009, the theatre celebrated its 60th anniversary.

A number of significant changes to the building have occurred over the past few years, with major extensions completed in 2002. An understage tunnel, which links two backstage dressing rooms and enables easier access from one side of the stage to the other, was completed in 2008. Bathroom facilities have also been installed backstage as part of this project, which was wholly self-funded.

The Old Mill Theatre is fortunate to have strong support from its local council, the City of South Perth. The city undertook major renovations to the exterior of the building in 2008 and the theatre is looking better now than ever before.

Mark DeFriest
P: 0418 385 153
W: www.oldmilltheatre.com.au

Keywords

WA Western Australia South Perth Old Mill Theatre world premiere David Stevens The Sum of Us Mark DeFriest what's on performance stage things to do nightlife Breaker Morant A Town Like Alice Cop Shop The Sullivans Prisoner The Flying Doctors Chances Ocean

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