Stuart Paterson’s Christmas shows at the Lyceum make only the briefest of nods to pantomime, instead choosing to focus on capturing all the magic of fairytale on stage. Neil Murray’s direction of Beauty & The Beast is no exception, providing a captivating two hours of charming festive entertainment with its timeless tale of love’s ability to conquer all.
Beauty (Ruth Milne) lives a Cinderella-like existence with her impoverished father (Lewis Howden) and her wicked sisters Hazel and Hannah (Karen Traynor and Nicola Roy) with only her new friend Martin (Andrew Rothney) to confide in. When her father ends up at the mercy of the terrifying Beast, selfless Beauty takes his place as the monster’s prisoner. Meanwhile, evil witch Crackjaw (Angela Clerkin) watches as her evil plans fall into place…
Milne puts in an appealing performance as Beauty, quickly becoming everyone in the audience’s favourite big sister. Rothney is similarly likeable as the brave Martin; and the relationship between the two leads is strong enough to carry the tale. Howden brings world-weary gravitas to his role, and the scenes between father and his favourite daughter are touching rather than saccharine.
As is often the case, the baddies have all the best roles…Clerkin plays child-hating Crackjaw with relish, appearing to have stepped straight off the set of a Tim Burton movie with her wild hair and billowing black dress. Traynor and Roy probably have the most fun however, and their chavtastic performances as the vain and scheming sisters provide Beauty & The Beast‘s best comedy moments.
Mark McDonnell as kind-hearted goblin Dunt is also there for comic relief, though he seems to have been studying Andy Gray’s camp panto performance style a little too closely at times. And Billy the Dog will appeal to younger audience members, providing plenty of faithful companion and ‘aww’ moments. Murray’s illustrative set design gives the production a suitably storybook feel, and costumes range from the flamboyant fun of the sisters’ ‘big city’ outfits to the potentially child-scaring towering black bull-headed beast.
There are other places you can go in Edinburgh to watch men dressed as women, hear jokes about the trams and catch innuendos flying over the heads of children in the audience. With Beauty & The Beast however, you can go and be treated to a big-hearted and spellbinding piece of charming theatre which will appeal to the child within, no matter how old you are.
Beauty & The Beast runs until 31 December. Dates / times vary – details are on the Lyceum website.