Writer: Eddie Robson
Music: Kieran Buckridge
Director: Joe Sumsion
Reviewer: Katherine Kirwin
Entering through a garden path of AstroTurf with rose-filled trellises framing your way, you enter the intimate space of The Dukes’ ‘The Round’ and realise that you are in for a tale of the familiar told in a different way. The hallmarks of Disney-induced expectations are strewn around the stage – a plethora of roses, and macabre hands holding candelabras – alongside the unexpected sight of tea trolleys filled with biscuits.
Eddie Robson’s engaging adaptation of Beauty and the Beast is firmly set ‘up North’ and begins with the Beaumont family who work in a biscuit making factory after having lost all of their family fortune in an ill-placed investment. The youngest daughter Belle (Natasha Davidson) is kind-hearted and close to her father and, when he angers the Beast by stealing a rose for her, Belle sacrifices herself and becomes the Beast’s companion.
The Duke’s production is clever and entertaining, engaging and magical. The movement direction is fantastic and really helped bring this world to life, from the ungracious gambolling of Beast (played brilliantly by Gareth Cassidy) to the humorous ‘wheeling around’ of the statue (Polly Lister). Each moment felt stylised and choreographed, capturing the audience’s attention and bringing another level of artistry to this Christmas show. The cast were committed and focused, and coped brilliantly with the distractions some of the younger audience members were causing. Each member of the cast brought something different to the stage and it truly felt like an ensemble piece and its success is a credit to them all.
Negatively, it seemed to take a while for us to get to meet the Beast and it would have been nice to have the curse explained, at least to the audience, earlier on too. Also, a minor point, but it’s a shame that they didn’t keep the character of a candelabra (like Lumiere in the Disney version) because I know the little girl next to me was confused about why a character dressed all in gold, who held their arms up like a candelabra wasn’t a candelabra. Although the songs were lovely, they didn’t always seem to come naturally into the production nor did the cast seem completely comfortable breaking into song, but maybe this is something which will gel with time.
This show challenges the expectations of a Christmas show and dares to try new things, an artistic show that remains engaging and fun for all ages. A strong ensemble cast and a twist on a well-known tale make this a great non-pantomime choice for all theatre-going folk this Christmas, not just those with children.
Runs until 2 January 2016 | Photo: Darren Andrews