Ed Fringe Review: I am Beast
The gaudy lighting, dry ice and video game synth music of I Am Beast will transport you to a Sin City world of imagination, where once upon a time, Blaze and Silver hunted evil together. Blaze is Ellie’s superhero persona and Silver was her mother. The surreal play follows Ellie’s (Lizzie Muncey) emotional journey as she struggles to come to terms with the trauma of her late mother’s death, dealing with her loneliness and grief through fantasy and escapism. Scenes flicker from an imaginary safe haven named Paradise City to her mundane home with her widowed father. From comic book superheroes to extra-terrestrial beasts, this play explores the darkest corners of a grieving teenager’s imagination.
Unsurprisingly, in a play about cartoon superheroes and villains, the slow motion slapstick fight scenes are clichéd and the caricatures of evil masterminds and heroes are one-dimensional with minimal room for character development. However, some profound messages resonate through the childishness. For example the line, ‘You can’t stop oblivion’, is a learning curve for Ellie as the futility of human struggle in face of death dawns on her.
The glimpses of Ellie’s actual life offer greater scope for psychological depth. When we gain insight into Ellie's dysfunctional relationships at home between Ellie and her father, John (Gilbert Taylor), we can sympathise with both the hormonal teenager who is struggling to confide in her father and equally John who is exasperated with his ‘uncontrollable’ daughter. For example, the image of Ellie standing on her bed, clasping her blanket desperately to her chest to comfort herself, is the epitome of loneliness. Equally, Taylor’s dejected demeanour, after Ellie screams at him and runs to her room, slamming the door behind her, is heart-wrenchingly pitiable. His hopelessness is communicated through his slumped shoulders, downcast gaze and thinned lips. Although completely predictable, the final resolution of Ellie’s problems is precisely the ending you want and leaves you with a warm fuzzy feeling inside.
The glorious man-sized Beast puppet steals the show. The puppeteers’ navy blue overalls and matching caps allow them to melt into the background under the stage lights and this enables the creature to come to life. The puppeteers’ mastery over the Beast’s individual gestures and actions, from a subtle tilt of the bald green head to the rise and fall of its breathing chest is infallible and clearly well practised.
Hardly groundbreaking, I Am Beast is neither side-splittingly funny nor terribly moving. The narrative arc ties up nicely so that you leave the theatre comforted, but with little impact on your life. The visual features of this play really are spectacular though, so you can at least go and enjoy the view!