February 29, 2012 | by  |
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Review: Divas and The Beast

Divas and The Beast
The Improv Divas: Mary Little, Nicola Pauling, Hanna Pickersgill, and Kate Wilson.
With Erin Upjohn-Beatson (music) and Darryn Woods (lighting).
BATS, 23rd February, 8pm

Divas and The Beast is advertised as “TV’s Beauty and The Beast meets Desperate Housewives.” However, the desire to wretch that this description evokes should not put you off seeing this show; TV shows provide only a loose basis for particular character types—the home-maker, the slapper, the spiritual-one, and the attention-craving social networker—that make up the panel of agony-aunts. Thankfully, the actors drop these annoying personae to act out solutions to audience members’ problems—the titular beast.

Before we entered the theatre, we were asked to write our beasts—those little, niggly, every-day problems that we constant face—on pieces of paper. The Diva then drew these out of a beast box and used them as provocations for improvisations on how to deal with that particular beast.

Improv is difficult at the best of times and the Divas are clearly quite skilled in the art. However, the night I went, some of the sketches didn’t quite fire. There were many times throughout the performance where the actors were a little slow in picking up offers or not feeding off each other’s energy very well. This may have just been opening-night jitters, however, and the capacity crowd still got into the spirit of the thing and gave plenty of support to the actors.

Standout mention must be made of Mary Little. She has an excellent ability to recognise when a scene is languishing and provide the perfect stimulus to give it a kick in the pants, so to speak. It is always pleasing to watch someone step into an improvisation and give it just the right nudge that comes from responding in the moment after spending long hours preparing; improvisation is the art of seemingly effortless and rehearsed creation of theatre and it is this art that Little is so proficient at.

The actors were not the only improvisers in the show. Erin Upjohn-Beatson masterly handled numerous instruments—although one got the sense she was much happier with the flute in her hands. The music that played whilst we were being seated was a grating, kind of elevator jingle. Although this set an irritating precedent for the musical remainder of the production, I am glad to say that this was a precedent that was quickly shattered.

Divas and The Beast does fulfill some of its promise of being an agony-aunt type production. Although it is pitched as a comedy – and it generally succeeds on this front – it does go some way to solving those little niggly problems. After all, “a beast shared is not a beast at all; it’s a little teddy bear,” and seeing our problems made light of in a loving way casts them in a very different light.

Divas and The Beast runs from 23rd – 26th February at 8pm.

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