Fat Rascal Theatre turns the tables on Beauty & the Beast

This Christmas get your festive musical theatre fix from Fat Rascal Theatre, who have turned the Disney fairytale Beauty and the Beast on its head. There’s no Belle here, instead meet Beau, a handsome bookworm who has always dreamt of more and a possessive beast of a woman. Can Beau see her lovely personality under all that fur?

Our editor Kate Stone talked to Fat Rascal Theatre’s Robyn Grant about this gender swapped parody and that tale as old as time, sexism. 

A fairytale land, far, far away. A handsome young bookworm who always dreamt of more. A hideous beast, in her cursed castle… It’s a tale as old as time, as you’ve never heard it before. This Christmas, from the creators of the award-winning sell-out hit Buzz: A New Musical, comes a big hairy dollop of festive fun. With a cast of five and an onstage musician, brace yourself for 90 minutes of boundless energy and musical madness as Fat Rascal Theatre explore whether fairytales really can come true – even when the princess doesn’t quite fit the slipper. Join us for our brand new, gender-swapped parody of Beauty and the Beast.

Kate Stone: Tell us about your parody of Beauty and the Beast!

Robyn Grant: We are closely following the familiar Disney story but with a big dirty gender swapped twist. Belle is Beau, we have a hairy breasted She-Beast, Mr Spout’s brewing up the tea, you get the picture.

We absolutely love Disney and are having a blast making a feminist and funny adult version of such a classic.

We’re exploring gender roles, we’re indulging our Disney nostalgia and we’re creating a brand new musical. We’re throwing it together with our trademark Fat Rascal blend of physical comedy, ridiculously fast costume changes and great big musical numbers. Yes it’s a parody with a cast of five but we’re really bloody going for it. We’ll give you a full village. We’ll give you an epic ballroom dance. We’ll give you a transformation from Beast to Princess. Bring it.

KS: What inspired you to give Beauty and the Beast the gender swap treatment?

RG: Walking out of the live action Beauty and the Beast film earlier this year, we couldn’t help but feel a little miffed. Sure, Belle didn’t wear a corset – and she did manage to invent a sort of ‘donkey powered washing machine’ – but we were promised a feminist retelling. A strong female lead. If the best thing that 2017 can offer women is Emma Watson, tearing off a bit of her big yellow frock and rushing back to the man that’s had her locked in his house, we’re a little worried.

After watching yet another fable of a woman learning to overlook a man’s hideousness and love the soul within, we decided to flip the whole thing on its head.

KS: Are there any other Disneyfied fairytales you’d like to turn upside down?

RG: ALL OF THEM! Oooh maybe Tangled. I’d climb up a gorgeous man’s hair to have a look at his friendly chameleon. Or The Little Mermaid!? Finding a lovely naked chap on the beach physically incapable of mansplaining? Perfect.

Robyn Grant. Credit Jennie Scott

KS: Funny Women and Fat Rascal Theatre seem to share a feminist agenda of championing women in comedy and theatre respectively. How has the theatre world responded to Fat Rascal since you founded the company?

RG: Our first show was Buzz the musical history of the vibrator and pitching this to older men was often met with the expected grimace and the odd distasteful comment. But generally we’ve had such an amazing response. In terms of our work being received, we really want to appeal to both genders and it’s so exciting for us to see men getting on board, supporting and laughing with us as a group of funny girls. Putting out work for women, working with a predominantly female team and actively looking for women to work with us has lead to meeting some wonderful people. It’s so brilliant meeting other companies and individuals working with the same agenda. I think for so long women have been made to compete against each other; when parts and jobs for women have always been so scarce theatre can feel like a competitive environment for women rather than a supportive one. It’s so important for women like us to stick together and help each other!

KS: Absolutely! Who are your favourite funny women?

RG: I’d have to say the two biggest influences for me have been Victoria Wood and Dawn French.

Victoria was a genius and a wonderfully down to earth Northern woman. She took the everyday and moulded it into wordy, witty brilliance. She paved the way for female writers working in musical comedy and is just textbook funny. If I’m ever stuck I’ll watch clips of her work. Hers is comedy at its simplest and best.

And Dawn is such a hero of mine. I’ve grown up watching The Vicar of Dibley box sets on repeat. She’s just so funny and lovely and gutsy. She has such a fantastic face. Whether she’s on stage or screen she makes you feel like you’re in her living room having a giggle together.

These women started working when the industry was far worse for women. They didn’t look or behave like most women on telly at the time and yet they became national treasures.

Beauty and the Beast: A Musical Parody is on at the King’s Head Theatre, London, 11th December – 6th January. For tickets and more information click here!