We’ll have to see it again then won’t we oh!
Freda Worrell reviews Northcott Theatre’s latest pantomime, Beauty and the Beast.
Christmas is fast approaching; this means Wham, binge watching the Nativity films and, of course, pantomimes.
Beauty and the Beast is one of the most classic and beloved of stories, making it is difficult to do justice. This Exeter Northcott Theatre production gave us a performance that was both fresh and interesting while still holding true to the romance and magic that first endeared us to this tale.
Walking in, I was skeptical. It has been a fair few years since my days of princess dresses and belting Disney songs. At the sight of the set though, it was as if I were once again a chubby six-year old in a sleeping beauty dress.
With the flashing lights, green smoke and quaint little buildings of paper the whole performance was well designed from beginning to end. Set designer, James Button, went above and beyond, from the giant roses that adorned the set to the flashing eyes in the trees; he created the perfect magical setting for the children and the ultimate nostalgic experience for the adults.
“Set designer, James Button, went above and beyond… he created the perfect magical setting for the children and the ultimate nostalgic experience for the adults.”
Set in Paris, the play opens with the entrance of Cupid (usually played by Dafydd Lansley however he had unfortunately been taken ill so was replaced with the very capable director and writer Daniel Buckroyd) who explained how it was his 100th mission to unite Bell (Sarah Moss) and Prince Valentine (Samson Ajewole) so that he may retire and finally find love himself. He and his Cupid helpers (Young Cupid team Rose) are interrupted by Nightshade (Anna Stolli) a bitter and jealous ex-cupid hell bent on destroying the couple. When Belle meets the prince and sparks fly, Nightshade turns him into a hideous beast.
From there the story follows the trend, Belle’s father (Monsieur Marzipan – Steve Bennet) and the Dame find the castle, Belle goes in their places and shares a magical dance with him in a sparkly dress.
“Nostalgic from beginning to end…”
Nostalgic from beginning to end, with the brightly coloured costumes and the customary “oh no they didn’t” and of course the sharp tongued comedic Dame (Martin Ramsdin), it was an experience I highly recommend, if only for the cheesy jokes and easy going happy ending. Belle and the Beast find love, there are a few dance numbers to some familiar tracks (although with a few twists to the words) as well as the almost obligatory Greatest Showman finale.
The much loved tale had a few changes and embellishments, with the addition of Belle’s sister Souffle (Hollie Nelson) as part of their sugary sweet theme, the Prince, a gardening fanatic, and a talented host of ensemble workers (the Young Chorus teams Rose and Thorn as well as ensemble members Hollie Nelson and Sebastian Rasmussen) to keep the story moving. It was clear it was a well thought out piece, though what has perhaps the most impressive was their ability to roll with the punches, be it unforeseen illness or lack of audience response there was never a moment of silence.
“… what has perhaps the most impressive was their ability to roll with the punches, be it unforeseen illness or lack of audience response there was never a moment of silence.”
After the show the cast had time to chat with the audience over mulled wine and mince pies, where they greeted each little princess in turn and I had the opportunity to ask a few questions. It was Ajewole who summed it up best; “pantomime is so nostalgic, it would be nice if people remember that”
It’s an important point about the worth of the show, christmas would be incomplete without the pantomime, it’s a tradition that I wrongly assumed was no longer for me. It offered a rose tinted view in to days gone by, and reminded me of the excitement of the christmas season. If you feel the stress pile up, or simply need a break from it all, this production of Beauty and the Beast was a fun and interesting retake on a classic story with fantastic cast and amazing crew. Make sure to catch it before 5th January 2020!