NEW WELSH THEATRE: THE BEAUTY PARADE
In a new show from the Wales Millennium Centre, theatre maker Kaite O’Reilly teams up with deaf and hearing artists to tell an extraordinary story of the unsung female heroes of World War II.
The Beauty Parade was never meant to be seen on the stage. Like the hidden lives of the three female spies at the heart of this unique Kaite O’Reilly production, The Beauty Parade was created with a strict, for-your-eyes-only policy. In this case, the eyes were those of WMC Senior Producer Emma Evans, who passed word up to the top that this story needed to be propagated to the people.
This unique one-act piece, created with composer Rebecca Applin and performer/visual language expert Sophie Stone, seamlessly weaves together physical performance, projection, song, visual language and spoken word into a thrilling, multi-sensory evocation of wartime espionage. It gives a voice to the unknown women of World War II, who were scooped from obscurity only to be dropped deeper into anonymity by the British army. The enrolment criteria: female, bilingual, patriotic, fearless. Training only lasted seven weeks and life expectancy in the field was less still. Nevertheless, on a full moon in 1944, fighter pilots would exchange their usual cargo of bouncing bombs for bombshells – redhead, blonde or brunette. These willing women-in-arms took the one-way ticket into occupied France to do what they could to undermine the common enemy. The pilots’ code for these moonlight flight nights: The Beauty Parade.
What director Katie O’Reilly sought to explore, through her Creative Wales Major Award, was the “performative power of words and music.” O’Reilly, a pioneer in using the aesthetics of access as a creative tool, came across the tale of the Beauty Parade in the early 1990s. What began life as a creative exploration into the bilingual nature of words, music and non-BSL visual language is now being fully realised in a show that will be accessible to all and of special interest to the hearing impaired.
O’Reilly feels the wartime message of unity, within a world that actively celebrates diversity, is as essential as ever. “I’m trying to remind people that evil can happen,” she says. “The wonderful thing about theatre is to imagine what it’s like to be in someone else’s shoes. When you don’t have compassion and you don’t have empathy, that’s how you have the atrocities of the Second World War.” JOHN-PAUL DAVIES
Weston Studio, Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff Bay, Thurs 5-Sat 14 Mar. Tickets: £12/£6 Thurs 5 only. Info: 029 2063 6464 / www.wmc.org.uk