Get our free email newsletter with just one click

Black Beauty review at Lakeside Arts, Nottingham – ‘spellbinding storytelling’

Scene from Black Beauty at Lakeside Arts, Nottingham Scene from Black Beauty at Lakeside Arts, Nottingham

Director Andy Manley has re-imagined the story of Black Beauty using just two actors and a ramshackle horsebox. This is home to the out-of-work McCuddy Brothers. Their grand title of ‘Horse Illusionists’ is a pun in itself because the whole production is based on illusion.

Two handbags thrust through the narrow window of the horsebox become the slender noses of two horses via the power of imagination. A glorious parade of characters from Anna Sewell’s classic story emerge from the entrance, everything from horse dealers to party-goers – even a woman giving birth. Anything seems possible – and this is a tribute to Shona Reppe’s design.

The storytelling is spellbinding, with the story of Black Beauty interwoven with the fortunes of Hamish, the panto horse. Paul Curley and John Currivan have the audience in thrall from the start. Theirs is a brilliant and endearing double act. But while Manley’s production is gloriously comic, it doesn’t shirk the sadness of the original story. Not everything can have a happy ending, says the older McCuddy brother to the younger. This reflection hangs in the air for a moment and then it’s back to business. Beautiful.

We need your help…

When you subscribe to The Stage, you’re investing in our journalism. And our journalism is invested in supporting theatre and the performing arts.

The Stage is a family business, operated by the same family since we were founded in 1880. We do not receive government funding. We are not owned by a large corporation. Our editorial is not dictated by ticket sales.

We are fully independent, but this means we rely on revenue from readers to survive.

Help us continue to report on great work across the UK, champion new talent and keep up our investigative journalism that holds the powerful to account. Your subscription helps ensure our journalism can continue.

Subscribers to The Stage get 10% off The Stage Tickets’ price
Engaging and inventive children’s theatre that makes the most of the audience’s power of imagination