And the

Julie At­las Muz and Mat Fraser will share their love story in a the­atri­cal ex­trav­a­ganza that will have its Aus­tralian premiere in Ade­laide next year

The Advertiser - SA Weekend - - FESTIVAL OF ARTS -

SHE IS THE Detroit-born bur­lesque pageant queen, con­tem­po­rary dancer and cabaret artist who once trained Os­car win­ner Kate Winslet to swim like a mer­maid. He is the English rock drum­mer, ac­tor, co­me­dian and dis­abil­ity ac­tivist with pho­comelia – a mal­for­ma­tion of the arms caused by the morn­ing sick­ness drug thalido­mide.

To­gether, Julie At­las Muz and Mat Fraser not only per­form Beauty and the Beast but have in­ter­twined the clas­sic French fairy­tale with the story of their own re­la­tion­ship and even­tual mar­riage.

The re­sult, which will have its Aus­tralian premiere at next year’s Ade­laide Fes­ti­val, is a multi-lay­ered the­atri­cal ex­trav­a­ganza of shadow pup­petry, song and dance, which is both de­lib­er­ately con­fronting in its undi­luted sex­u­al­ity and yet mes­meris­ing in its rich visual ta­pes­try and emo­tional depth.

In a real life love story that couldn’t have been scripted, the Freak and the Show­girl (as they are fre­quently billed) ac­tu­ally met in 2006 at – where else – New York’s Coney Is­land, home to some of the world’s most fa­mous amuse­ment parks and sideshow acts.

“It’s funny, isn’t it?’’ Fraser says from New Or­leans, where he is film­ing the lat­est se­ries of Amer­i­can Hor­ror Story: Freak Show, which be­gan screen­ing in Aus­tralia on Chan­nel 11 this week.

“It was kapow! A cou­ple of years later, with our re­spec­tive pre-ex­ist­ing first mar­riages no longer, we were able to man­i­fest our love.’’

The seeds for Beauty and the Beast were sown from the very start.

“It was her idea. I said ‘We should work to­gether’ be­cause I was too scared to say ‘I fancy you’,’’ Fraser re­calls.

“She said, ‘ What about Beauty and the Beast?’ It hit me like a bolt from the ob­vi­ous blue: all that sym­bol­ism and mythol­ogy and his­tory that goes into fairy­tales is so ripe and beau­ti­ful to use with dis­abil­ity, in terms of metaphor.

“I thought: ‘ Dam­mit! I should have thought of that!’ The fact that she nailed the ob­vi­ous show that we should go for… just made me like her even more.”

Muz, mean­while, is talk­ing from Paris where she has been per­form­ing at Cirque d’Hiver as a reg­u­lar mem­ber of Cabaret New Bur­lesque, the troupe at the cen­tre of Mathieu Amal­ric’s film Tournée (On Tour), which won the best di­rec­tor and FIPRESCI awards at the Cannes Film Fes­ti­val in 2010.

“He was work­ing at a ‘Born not Made’ week­end at Coney Is­land and I was do­ing a bur­lesque show,” she says of meet­ing Fraser. “It just started there… we were hot for each other, it was fun.

“Mat was in my dreams a cou­ple of times when he went back to Eng­land... so I wrote him. At that time, he was look­ing for somebody to col­lab­o­rate with ar­tis­ti­cally, be­cause he had been do­ing a lot of solo work. I just blurted out: ‘ Beauty and the Beast, how’s that?’ Our re­la­tion­ship grew from there.’’

Fraser’s ca­reer has fol­lowed a fas­ci­nat­ing tra­jec­tory, one which to a de­gree mir­rors the de­pic­tion and in­cor­po­ra­tion of dis­abil­ity in the arts.

After drum­ming with sev­eral UK bands in the ’80s and ’90s, he first came to Ade­laide in 2002 as part of the short­lived High Beam dis­abil­ity arts fes­ti­val, per­form­ing his one-man show Seal­boy, in which he por­trayed both an old freak show act and a con­tem­po­rary dis­abled ac­tor who con­verse across eras.

By the time he re­turned in 2011 with his then fi­ancee Muz in The Freak and the Show­girl, Fraser had grad­u­ated from the marginalis­ed High Beam to the more main­stream, popular Fringe au­di­ence at the Gar­den of Un­earthly De­lights.

This time, the now mar­ried cou­ple have scaled the pin­na­cle of arts pro­gram­ming as part of the Ade­laide Fes­ti­val.

“The thing is, I’m happy to do low art and high art, and I like the cabaret short-for­mat evening stuff as well as the high­fa­lutin, philo­soph­i­cally pro­found the­atri­cal ex­pe­ri­ence,’’ Fraser says.

“We’re thrilled that we’ve ar­rived at the Fes­ti­val – although, I have to tell you, I will be kick­ing back and en­joy­ing some down­time down at the Gar­den.

“The dif­fer­ence is that The Freak and the Show­girl is very much cabaret, there’s no fourth wall, it’s Mat and Julie doin’ what they do, get­tin’ down and dirty with the au­di­ence, and hav­ing a ri­otous old naughty time.

“Beauty and the Beast is a much more lay­ered piece of work, that cov­ers both the clas­sic fairy­tale and in­ter­weaves ex­pe­ri­ences from our own courtship and ro­mance. The two bleed into each other. We’ve got pup­petry, we’ve got a huge set that re­minds me of an open-air El­iz­a­bethan stage, great light­ing de­sign, fan­tas­tic stage de­sign and cos­tumes.’’

The orig­i­nal French text of Beauty and the Beast has quite strong erotic un­der­tones and a dark sub­text that the cou­ple were keen to fur­ther ex­plore.

“You prob­a­bly know Beauty and the Beast as a story for chil­dren, but when it was orig­i­nally writ­ten in France by Bar­bot de Vil­leneuve… it wasn’t re­ally in­tended just for chil­dren. There are a lot of erotic in­ter­pre­ta­tions of that story,” Muz says.

“We weave the tra­di­tional fairy­tale with our own real-life story, so we are con­stantly go­ing in and out of true life.

“There’s no singing teapots – Dis­ney re­ally sani­tised the fairy­tale, and we eroti­cise it. Beauty and the Beast is not a

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.