Tuesday, 28 September 2021

Love conquers all in feelgood production

Love conquers all in feelgood production

Beauty and the Beast | South Hill Park, Bracknell | Saturday, December 9

SENDING out a lovely Christmas message that love conquers all and beauty is more than skin-deep, Beauty and the Beast at the South Hill Park Arts Centre was a festive treat.

Warm and squishy, just like Bracknell’s homegrown “Good Fairie” Gabby, Brad Clapson, with emerald-hued villains Norbere (Craig Rhys Barlow) and Gobby (Heather Wilson), there was solid support from Tom Pepper as Zut Alors and romance supplied by Faye Ellen as Belle and Matthew Houston as the Prince/the Beast.

As the names would suggest, with a nod to the fairy tale’s origins of La Belle et la Bête, this production was infused with a Gallic flavour.

The icing on the Christmas cake was Gabby’s book of magical spells, entitled “The Lexicon” in honour of the town’s newly regenerated shopping centre.

The glorious costumes and intricate scenery courtesy of Rebekah Shirley and Victoria Spearing and their teams were top notch, with a clever cylindrical wraparound staircase and movable enclosures highlighting how the uglified Beast was isolated and alone.

Optical illusions, puppetry and gargoyle trickery kept up the surprises, while the Beast himself was an extraordinary creation. Director Adam Stafford ramped up the colour and fun, bringing out the emotion and drama (and of course the fun bits).

With a host of characters ably abetted by talented local children and young people, even a slight delay in the interval with some tweaks to the pyrotechnics couldn’t throw this panto off its stride.

Until January 3.

Natalie Aldred

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