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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.

Verdict
Excellent ensemble work ensures this classic love story grips throughout

Production Information

Production
Beauty and the Beast
Venue
Theatre by the Lake
City
Keswick
Starts
November 23, 2018
Ends
January 12, 2019
Press night
November 24, 2018
Authors
Laurence Boswell
Composer
Olly Fox
Director
Chris Honer
Choreographer
Sian Williams
Set
Abby Clarke, Patrick Connellan
Lighting
Elliot Griggs
Sound
Richard Bell
Production manager
Andy Reader
Cast includes
Nicola Blackman, Charlie Cameron, Gareth Cassidy, Ashley Gerlach, Max Gold, Sarah Moss, Joseph Richardson, Eleanor Sutton, Jonny Weldon
Producer
Theatre by the Lake
Running time
2hrs