Beauty and The Beast
Written by Kenneth Alan Taylor
Director: Bill Buckhurst
Choreographer: Alistair David
Designer: Morgan Large
Musical Director: John Morton
Lighting Designer: Zoe Spurr
It’s panto time again at Nottingham Playhouse. Ring out those Playhouse panto bells! “Ooh la la! Rejoice! Rejoice! Réjouissez-vous!” This Christmas panto is set in France. “Oh oui it is!” It’s Beauty and The Beast and it’s a manifique and hilarious Christmas cracker of a show! So throw on your winter coats, your cosy hats and face masks and head on down to Nottingham Playhouse for some unbridled pantomime fun with some new faces in the cast as well as John Elkington as our favourite dame, Madame Fifi. Joining him on stage tonight are Lisa Ambalavanar (Belle), Scott Armstrong (Beast), Tom Hopcroft (Maurice), Megan Cerys-Holland (Veronique), Bradley Judge (Gaston), Clarice Julianda (Florence) and Myles Miller (Jacques the lad). We can bet there’s going to be plenty of fun, romance and glitter at La Rochelle sur Trent me ducks!
There’s nothing, and I mean nothing, quite as entertaining and reassuring as an annual return trip to Nottingham Playhouse for their panto. It’s as familiar as a pair of comfy slippers and a lot funnier. This audience revel in all the gags new and old played out and told with such vivacity from this exuberant cast.
Right from the off we hear “Ey Up Me Ducks!” from John Elkington’s wonderful dame Madame Fifi (he must be one of the best dames in the country) over the sound system and we sit back ready to enjoy the silliness that is about to unfold on stage. And boy is it silly. There’s a runabout escaped hen, two OTT chavvy sisters played to the hilt by Megan Cerys-Holland (Veronique) and Clarice Julianda (Florence), Bradley Judge as a big show off called Gaston and Tom Hopcroft as the hugely comical Maurice.
Notts Playhouse newcomer Myles Miller is an instant – very likable – hit as Jacques the lad and we even get to practice our French as he encourages us to shout out “Bonjour Jacques!” every time he greets the audience. Miller lights up the stage brighter than the already bright and colourful excellent Playhouse panto scenery.
Lisa Ambalavanar makes a charming and spirited Belle who is not fooled by just good looks alone and gives Scott Armstrong’s grumpy Beast strong opposition in proper ways to speak and behave with other people. Like my mother always used to say of warring couples “Eee by ‘eck they’ll end up getting wed them two.” And she wasn’t even from Yorkshire. Well, panto goers you will have to go to see Beauty and The Beast to find out if they do.
Of course, there ain’t no proper British pantomime without a good dame and their parade of ever more outrageous costumes. This year John Elkington shows us as a great a time as ever with his cheeky personality, his naughty asides and his hilarious facial expressions that often say more in one look than a whole script worth of jokes. Elkington’s costumes are even more brilliantly inventive than in previous years and this year his French Fancy costume has the audience rolling in the aisles. Without giving anything away his curtain call cossie is a total triumph and rather an eyeful.
Kenneth Alan Taylor’s script is as topical and panto perfect as ever (well he has been at it for a few years now) and Bill Bucknall’s direction is super sharp but allows enough space for the actors to improvise. As Beauty and the Beast choreographer Alistair David delivers plenty of dance delights to the stage especially for the effervescent chorus of young performers.
Beauty and The Beast is full of great surprises, fantastic sets and lighting effects, great live music and songs and all the join in fun and nonsense that Nottingham folk have come to expect over the years. There is a slight mention or two about sponsors Nottingham City Transport and oui I can reveal that the traditional rabbits do make an appearance live and kicking on stage and not in a pie with French pastry. At least there’s mushy peas and cock on a stick on show. It’s a local thing.
Beauty and The Beast or La Belle et la bête in French is a sure fire panto bet at Nottingham Playhouse and you don’t even need your passport to get in and enjoy it. Ey up mes canards this is one panto spectacle for all la Famille.