By Katrina ffiske
A trip to the Playhouse pantomime has become an important part of Salisbury’s Christmas celebrations, and this year’s spellbinding pantomime Beauty and the Beast does not fail to please. It is a triumph of comedy, song, dance, beautiful set and costumes, and of course, lots of audience participation.
The original fairytale, La Belle et La Bete, was written in 1740 by a French novelist so Andrew Pollard has set the tale in Paris. The story is essentially about love, so Paris, the city of romance, is an appropriate setting.
Andrew cleverly has the fairytale narrated by Cupid, determined to bring heroine Amorette together with hero Prince Friedrich. The Wicked Witch, Spite, intervenes, despising friendship and love she curses the Prince and turns him into a beast, locking him away in a castle. Will Amorette fall in love with the Beast?
James Button’s set is sparkling with arrows and roses, but we are transported to the Eiffel Tower, and the prince transforms into a beast in a large dramatic backdrop of a moon.
Richard Ede was last year’s dame and returns as Betty Bon Bon, a sweet seller. Reflecting Parisian fashion, the costumes are wonderfully over the top: a liquorice allsorts Christian Dior suit, a cup-cake dress, marshmallow wigs. His energy, brilliance and timing is outstanding, the patter song of sweets and chocolate a triumph.
Liberty Buckland plays Amorette, the goodly, studious daughter, but there is a spark to her. Not quite as perfect as her father thinks, she wants to seek adventure and leave her home town. Her sister Soufflé, played by Nerine Skinner, is driven by shopping, boys and instagrams. Nerine plays a wonderful mix of Paris chic and Essex girl teenager.
Ralph Bogard is excellent as the bankrupt father Monsieur Marzipan, adoring Liberty and despairing in Souffle.
Helen Colby is perfect as the evil Spite, the antithesis to Alex Wadham’s sparkling, pink and winged cupid. Joseph Black plays a charming prince transforming into a marvellous, believable, roaring beast.
I took a friend with me who had never been to a pantomime. “No we don’t need to kidnap a child to take with us, you will enjoy it,” I told him. “Salisbury pantomimes are the best.”
He loved every minute. The choreography (Nicky Griffiths) and music (Christopher Peake) are such a high standard, it was almost more musical than pantomime, with endless funny gags, and clever puns you can’t help but leave with a smile.
I met some of the cast and the director Ryan McBryde and saw the hard work that goes into every minute. Congratulations to all of you, I am booking to come again with some children I have found.
Beauty and The Beast runs until February 13.
Pictured above: Joseph Black and Liberty Buckland in the beauty and the beast. Photo by Robert Workman