Beauty & The Beast

Date 29th January 2022
Society Little Common and Bexhill Players
Venue The Shepherd's Theatre, Little Common
Director Margaret Smart & Malcolm Atfield
Musical Director Margaret Smart
Written By Holdershaw/Cartwright/Archer

Report

Author: Anne Lawson

Originally intended for January of last year only to be abandoned after two rehearsals, it was with huge effort by the whole cast and production team to finally be able to bring this pantomime to an eagerly awaiting audience. A LCBP warm welcome to John Barnes, past NODA President, and myself. This was a double celebration as 170 years of theatrical dedication was to be acknowledged after the performance.

Margaret Smart dressed in stylish maroon livery and major domo wig introduced the housekeeping announcements and instead of performing as a ‘Magic Tree’ she at short notice was taking on the role of Captain Marcel –  father of our heroine book worm Belle. She not only co-directed she was MD,  played the piano and rarely used her script!

The tale as old as time, opened with the shimmering Enchantress in her lair, narrated in perfect rhyme to prove that in time with the drop of the red rose petals, the Beast in his castle would find love and all the ‘objects’ would become humans once more. Stalwart Lyn Ford made the magic happen but also provided a little laser light as Rosette.

The village scene opened with a professional looking, most colourful village backdrop, two wheeled on market stalls with Shirley Hazleden and Jenny Bromley selling their wares and the jolly opening chorus numbers introduced the various characters. Belle, simply costumed in a pinafore dress, was played with a great comic edge, by confident Fleur Bailey. She doesn’t worry about material things, but her ghastly spoilt sisters portrayed with wit, Imogen Beale as Grimella and Beatrice Dixon as  Grizelda want all, but Daddy has lost his riches. Lewis Ikin plays a strong well voiced Gustav  – suave man about town donning a bad wig, wants a wife and of course the two think he’ll choose them. No, he wants Belle. Marcel is captured wandering too close to the Castle by the scary Beast, well presented by disguised Dave Bourne. Belle takes him on and of course in time falls for him. Newcomer Jack Kennedy in opulent blue Rococo style topcoat and yellow hose portrayed Jacques  - an athletic, comic character who geed up the audience to look after the gift-wrapped present, by chanting ‘Lovely Jubbly’ every time anyone went near it. Loved his French! Some brilliant elevated and spin movements whilst trying to teach Gustav to dance.

A stone clad grey castle interior included a suit of armour, was dressed with a log fire, a well flickering metal chandelier and a gate door flat that rose on command – sometimes! The Castle household were a great comic team with excellent costumes too – basic blacks with cut out headdresses with gold shimmer face paint with Lesley Brown Cuillere  the spoon, Jac Young Fourchette the fork and always mean to Imogen Vernon Gill as Mac the knife – three well-presented characters, accompanied by Jenny Taylor as an illuminating yellow Lampe complete with tasselled shade. Lots of better than usual ‘cracker’ jokes kept us laughing. Dressed in red, young Lydia Vernon Gill performed her petal duties well, removing them as required – loved her naughty gestures to the Beast. The large red rose was created to release a petal at a time set to side of the stage and lit with fairy lights. Katie Dickens had a nice cameo appearance as Lisa the portrait on the castle wall who actually spoke!

More comedy came from Rona Morton, Lyn Ford, Katie Dickens and John Search was in his element as the energetic dame character housekeeper Bonbon. We had sing alongs and ghosties, lapses in script and ad libs that were hilarious. Make up by Wezley Webber was first class.  

Pleasing work by the construction and  backstage team headed by SM Gary Pope with good props prepared – the carts and rose panels, the thoughtful chosen musical numbers, and noises off effective, with credit to the costume creators, F of H and to the co-directors Margaret Smart & Malcolm Atfield.