Writers: Ray Spencer MBE and Graeme Thompson
Director: Ray Spencer MBE
Assistant Director: Natasha Haws
Reviewer: Anna Ambelez
Beauty and The Beast, has a traditional theme for an untraditional pantomime. The uncaring unpopular prince, (Steven Lee Hamilton) is turned into a beast by the Enchantress, (Eleanor Chaganis). He can only be released by learning to love and be loved in return, all of which must be accomplished before the final petal falls off the enchanted rose. After Chaganis lays the plot, Arbuthnot (David John Hopper) and his mum Dame Belle Ballcock (Ray Spencer MBE) enter on their way to the castle to work there with Arbuthnot’s friend, Cutlet (Charlie Raine), a magic talking sheep. They are joined by Duke du Pommefrites (Gareth Hunter) and his daughter Beauty (Annie Guy), who is pursued by the evil Gaviscon (Afnan Iftikhar), in search of her affections. Everyone ends up in the castle where the energetic chief housekeeper Hortensia (Georgia Nicholson) tries to keep everyone in order.
Pantomime classics abound, lots of ‘Oh no it isn’t’, ‘it’s behind you’, a wonderful slop scene with lots of outsized props and cast falling over, which both children and adults adore. Spencer is as sharp as ever, Hopper is every kids mate and Raine adds humour all of her own. Raine’s signing is an added endearment, especially for those, like her, who are hard of hearing. The numerous songs are well supported by excellent choreography (Jacqui West). The pantomime is set in France, but the only French accent is Hunter’s which is constant and adds to his humorous interpretation of the part. Other accents abound, such as a Glasgow baddie.
There are three central stars in this story, Beauty, Beast and the enchanted rose. Unfortunately, the rather small rose at the side of the stage is almost unseen, in front of a highly patterned background and only lit when another vital petal falls. Its importance is told by Chaganis at the beginning when setting the scene, but the sound levels make it very difficult to hear, a little testing for those who are not aware of its importance, young and old alike.
This romantic tale is presented in an all-enveloping delicate and romantic setting with exquisitely fashioned costumes (Paul Shriek, Matt Fox). Some sophisticated backdrops are almost impressionistic in design, leaving scope for the audience’s imagination to play. The lighting (Robin Bainbridge) and Digital Artwork (Fox) bring huge variety to the same scene, changing ambiances and moods. While the first film version produced by French poet Jean Cocteau was released in 1946, it is the 1991 Walt Disney animated musical film that is remembered. The young Pierre Cardin designed the 1946 costumes, so designers Fox and Shriek are in good company.
Whilst not your traditional pantomime story, it is based on a French fairy tale of the same name in 1740, which in turn was based on the classical myth of Cupid and Psyche, so like most pantomimes, it goes back a long time. As with all folklore, moral lessons are told, prodigal pride is punished while virtue and hard work are rewarded.
Like most pantomimes, this too has a moral, about the most important thing in life, to love and be loved. And on the night of this review, the packed house certainly loved this show and is not one to be missed, a Custom’s beauty.
Runs until 6th January 2019 | Image: Contributed