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Beauty and the Beast review at Salisbury Playhouse – ‘handsome, female-led panto’

Joseph Black and Liberty Buckland in Beauty and the Beast at Salisbury Playhouse. Photo: Robert Workman

This year, Salisbury Playhouse’s version of Beauty and the Beast kicks out traditional male hero, sidekick and villain. The Beast of the title – the imposing but not too scary Joseph Black – barely gets a look-in despite his importance to the plot.

Instead, the show is led by Liberty Buckland as the adventurous but kind-hearted Amorette who wins his heart. She is supported by Nerine Skinner, fabulous as her social media-obsessed sister Souffle (think French chic with a Towie twist) and Helen Colby’s malevolent Spite. The gender balance is redressed by Alex Wadham’s pink-clad Cupid and Ralph Bogard’s Monsieur Marzipan.

As Dame Betty Bonbon, Richard Ede is a vision of marshmallow-whipped hair and confection-themed couture, and his patter song of sweet treats is nothing short of a triumph.

The playhouse has set the bar high for its pantomimes in recent years and this one is up there with the best. Nobody puts a foot wrong or gets a sibilant out of place – despite some devilishly tongue-twisting lyrics.

Last year’s award-winning team of writer Andrew Pollard, director Ryan McBryde, designer James Button and musical director Christopher Peake is back, ensuring the gags come thick and fast. The glitter-encrusted set sparkles, custard pies fly, transformations are magical, the singing is tuneful and there are plenty of opportunities for audience participation.

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Verdict
Wholesome, handsome female-led panto that ticks all the right boxes
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