ComedyReviewSouth West

Beauty & the Beast – Theatre on the Downs, Bristol

Reviewer: Joan Phillips

Writer: Stu McLoughlin and Howard Coggins

Director: Craig Edwards

Talented musical comedy duo, Stu McLoughlin and Howard Coggins, turn their attention away from history to a new version of the French fairy tale classic, Beauty and the Beast. 

Despite the publicity material, the two are not ‘widely known as the two most physically attractive comedy theatre company in the South West’ but they do deserve their huge local popularity and enthusiastic following. The question of which one will play the part of the Beast, ‘a hideous dark mess of fur and teeth with resemblance to a boiled egg’ and which one dresses as a woman (again!) barely needs to be pondered when the question is posed to the audience in the introductory moments. We know how it will turn out and it is all part of the charm of Living Spit’s on-stage chemistry.

The show, mostly in English, the rest in Franglais (don’t worry, no translation is required), does not miss an opportunity for our local heroes to take a shot at the French, right down to which side of the road they drove in the 18th Century. This time the duo also come dangerously close to attracting American behemoth Disney’s copyright lawyers, but they just about stay on the right side of the line in this revisionist version. This tongue-in-cheek humour, plus the literally cheese-y jokes, are all part of the fun.

As ever, new humorous songs are weaved into the story. Songs like ‘18th Century Rock Star’ hilariously sets the background for the tragic spell that traps Beast into his hideous form. ‘Stockholm Syndrome’ is ingeniously funny, explaining Belle’s acceptance of her position as his captive and, without giving anything away, how she comes to fall in love with him. This modern version, updated for the new millennium, also comes with mobile phones and a very funny text and emoji exchange, complete with typos.

Staged at Bristol’s dramatic and spacious new theatre venue, the Theatre on the Downs and complete with minimalist props and costume changes this production continues Living Spit’s success in mining entertainment from classic stories in their very own style. If there are any quibbles it seems that the production is a little light on new songs than previous shows and there is still some repetition of some of the more indulgent jokes. But overall, a thoroughly good night out and a very appreciate audience went home very happy.

Runs until 18th September 2021

The Reviews Hub Score

Fun fairy tale

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The Reviews Hub - South West

The Southwest team is under the editorship of Holly Spanner. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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