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Waterfront Festival

Theatre Review: Beauty and the Beast

11 December 21 words: Tanya Louise

A beauty of a panto

Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without a panto, unless it’s 2020 - but let’s not go there, and whilst things may be still a little unpredictable, the one thing you can be sure of is a beauty of a panto from the Nottingham Playhouse gang.

Whether it be a case of absence makes the heart grow fonder, or a simple sugar overload in the foyer, the audience, the majority of which were children, were wound up and ready to go from the off for this years offering Beauty and The Beast, poised to heckle the baddies and scream ‘chicken’ - yes, you did read that right. We even get a boo at the request to switch off mobiles - kids today eh!

Pantomime is one of the many things the Playhouse does well, and so of course the production doesn’t disappoint. Costumes, songs, choreography, cheesy Dad jokes, audience participation, topical humour, innuendo and general silliness, are all led by the cheekiest and best Dame in the business today, John Elkington as Madam Fifi, who marks over 20 years in the role at the Playhouse. Master of the ad lib, John always nails the role in a way I’ve never seen another Dame able. He only has to totter on stage in one of his many colourful costumes (which get increasingly more outrageous as the evening progresses) to raise a giggle.

Joining John this year are some new faces to the annual line up. Myles Miller is the likeable Jacques the lad who brings boundless energy to the stage, “Bonjour Jacques!” we’re instructed to shout every time he greets the audience. With this I should explain that the story is set in 1740, in ‘a generic French town’ by the name of La Rochelle sur Trent . Pay attention to the colourful set design and you’ll notice signposts to ‘Le M1’ and ‘Vicky Centre’.

The script comes courtesy of Kenneth Alan Taylor (another Nottingham panto veteran) and is littered with topical gags as well as local. The combination of Bill Bucknall’s direction and Alistair David’s choreography ensure that the viewer is hit with a constant flow of entertainment, meaning the relatively small cast are utilised to ensure the show is always fast paced, and the stage is constantly animated, whether it be by sound and light, one of the actors playing multiple roles or the effervescent chorus of young performers.

The musical numbers as always are a mix of current and older songs, featuring more I think this year than ever before.

Making up the cast are two social media loving sisters Veronique (Megan Cerys-Holland) and Florence (Clarice Julianda), Bradley Judge as the arrogant Gaston, and Tom Hopcroft as Maurice, who’s silliness is loved by the kids, particularly at the slapstick comedy tea party.

Lisa Ambalavanar plays our charming heroine Belle. She takes no nonsense, and the morals she lives by are as timeless as the story itself - Never judge a book by it’s cover, and of course - Be Kind. We all know how it ends, it’s no spoiler when I say she melts the heart of our grumpy and demanding Beast (Scott Armstrong) - who becomes a changed man in more ways than one.

Nothing has been missed from the pantomime tick list. There are beautiful dresses, silly jokes for the kids, innuendo for the adults, and for those that return year after year, there is of course an appearance by the rabbits, not to mention the usual tongue in cheek mention of the sponsors, Nottingham City Transport. Though despite all this magnificence, you might just leave with your kids saying the best bit was the sausage roll songs.

Très bonne Nottingham Playhouse, you’ve done it again!

nottinghamplayhouse.co.uk

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