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Beauty and the Beast review at Bishop Auckland Town Hall County Durham

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Playwright Mike Kenny has crafted a spellbinding antidote to big production pantomime, showing that dramatised storytelling can be as magical as anything with spectacular technological effects.

Scenery amounting to little more than three chests and two tower-like structures on wheels, painted to resemble walls, is constantly shifted to enhance the narrative and provide platforms for the actors within a very small performance space.

The cast combines exaggerated movements and verbal delivery early on with genuine feeling in later encounters between Beauty and her father and in her dealings with the Beast.

There is effective use of many small props which show, as well as tell, the story. This works particularly well, for example, in creating the idea of a cavernous castle and its animated objects. Subtle lighting effects help create a sense of magic and of danger in the forest.

In Kenny’s take on the character Beauty, Jennifer Gabriele is noisy, spoilt and petulant, giving Eleanor Dennison, as a knowing and forthright cook/fairy godmother, motive to magic her son into the Beast, to bring about true love between both, with Louis Roberts swapping comical antics for ferocity in a scary mask. Nigel Collins frequently raises giggles as the hapless butler and rich merchant.

Production Information

Bishop Auckland Town Hall, County Durham, December 21, touring until January 21

Author
Mike Kenny
Director
Gillian Hambleton
Producer
Northumberland Theatre Company
Cast includes
Louis Roberts, Jennifer Gabriele, Eleanor Dennison and Nigel Collins
Running time
1hr 40mins

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