David Stevens on his latest work…
“Australia has very few myths and fables and not many fairy stories. I suppose this is because it is difficult to think of magic and spells and good fairies with wands given Australia has such a recent history. But I’ve always wanted to write one.
“I was taking an adult French education class and, as an exercise, I had written a couple of the shorter Maori legends in French. Driving home one night, I wondered what my next essay would be and I started to think of the legend of The Beauty and the Beast –but without the transformation.
“It’s always seemed odd to me that Belle falls in love with the beast but he is then transformed into the world’s most handsome man. I suppose my attitude would be ‘Who’s this drongo, where’s my beast?’
“So I started to write it as a French essay but without the transformation – the beast is and always will be that. It was well-received by my class and, driving home, I wondered how the legend could be changed to Australia.
“It wasn’t a big jump from there to bushfire. Not the great Australian legend but the great Australian nightmare.
“What happens to a good Aussie bloke whose face has been destroyed by fire? There can never be any magic spells for him.”
On why he set it in Australia:
“I didn’t want to do it as a modern story because it would be a bit different now. In the old days, people who lived in the bush, the outback, and only had each other to depend on. There wasn’t a flying doctor then.
“This tied in with my own sense of community – I live in woop-woop, in a small village, and we often have foul, destructive weather. When that happens, the whole village pitches in to help each other.
“So I thought about old Australia, the place in all our dreaming, and what would have happened to a burns victim then. I started to see him as a burns survivor, saved by the villagers who now feel responsible for him.
“I tried to imagine what it would be like if a baby had been caught in a bushfire and is found burned – but alive. What would the rescuers do with him? Would they let him live, horribly disfigured, or would they save him and look after him?
“What would happen to that disfigured man when he grew up? How would he find love?
“And because Australia is upside down, it became The Beast and the Beauty.”
For bookings and details on The Beast and The Beauty, click HERE.