Beauty and the Beast review at Theatre by the Lake, Keswick – ‘excellent ensemble work’
Laurence Boswell has given his perennial favourite Beauty and the Beast another revision for this year’s Theatre by the Lake Christmas show, and the result is a pacy, funny, show with enough contemporary in-jokes to keep the most worn-out of parents switched on.
Boswell’s belief that what this 18th century French folk tale really needs to fly is some innuendo-prone comedy robots has survived into this latest iteration.
Christopher Honer’s production is not big on special effects and Abby Clarke and Patrick Connellan’s set offers a familiar shop-as-seen-by-a-child backdrop to much of the action, but there’s an eclectic edge to the costume, with a Beast straight out of the 1980s remake of The Fly, and a Witch whose attire owes more than a little to a Quality Street lid.
As a result, much of the heavy lifting in terms of generating atmosphere is done by the actors. This makes for a show with a particularly kinetic kind of magic. Honer’s direction ensures the ensemble brings focus and energy to even the most potentially prosaic what-happened-next narrative elements.
Sian Williams’ movement direction adds a brilliant otherworldliness to proceedings, with some inspired flamenco-influenced movement a particular highlight.
Nicola Blackman brings a classy self-possession to the Beast’s sidekick the Witch. Charlie Cameron and Sarah Moss’ take on Beauty’s Sloane-y elder sisters is hilarious, with Cameron’s dancing and Moss’ Robot Maid also highlights. Ashley Gerlach’s childishly vulnerable Beast makes us grasp just what Eleanor Sutton’s sensible Beauty sees in him.
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.