"the gross and scope of my opinion ..." Hamlet I,1.
Monday, December 18, 2017
BEAUTY AND THE BEAST
AND THE BEAST
Youth Theatre at Chichester Festival Theatre
compromises in this year’s Youth Theatre offering. The deeper
themes and complex emotions are fearlessly explored. And all the
professional support – music, design, choreography and more –
that makes Chichester musicals so special is devoted to the
service of these talented young performers.
is a poignant re-imagining of the fairy tale – scripted by Anna
Ledwich, with songs by Richard Taylor. As the lyrics say in the final
scene, “not at all at all what we expected”.
core story is framed, and shaped, by evacuees, leaving London for the
Sussex countryside, and billeted in a creepy old country house.
Sinister rumblings, an off-limits South Wing, a strict housekeeper
all make the displaced youngsters nervous – they devise a scenario,
which they share with newcomers, and with us, the audience. And
a game of hide and seek leads us in to some dark places and the
two title characters are superbly imagined, and confidently
portrayed. Beauty [Mia
Cunningham-Stockdale] is named less for her looks than for her
virtue; she’s a feisty horticulturalist, the Cordelia who rejects
a ball-gown for a gold lamé trouser suit. And eventually
saves the Beast with a wonderful love duet.
played by Hal Darling, inside an amazing exoskeleton puppet,
magnifying his every move as his voice is manipulated. He’s
genuinely scary but believably human, powerful but vulnerable.
are many other memorable characters – Mr Villeneuve [George
tea merchant and Beauty’s father, his ugly-sister daughters and his
dim twittish sons, Winston the pack-horse puppet, Dot D’Otter the
messenger, Kiki the outrageously
the Racoon. Not forgetting the refugee children themselves, who carry
much of the narrative.
show is packed with magic and marvellous stagecraft – big
production numbers like the feast and the London sequence, and a
wonderful library with avian volumes flapping overhead. Exemplary
ensemble work, with every performer given a distinct character.
and the Beast is directed by Dale Rooks, with designer Simon Higlett,
designer Ryan Dawson Laight, movement director Lizzi Gee and puppetry
specialist Nick Barnes. How
fortunate these youngsters are to gain experience in this
professional environment, and how lucky Chichester is to have such a
fantastic Christmas show … pantos, after all, are two-a-penny …
of the roles are double-cast – the names here are those appearing
on Press Night