Beauty and the Beast was last staged as a pantomime at the Edinburgh King’s in 1946. This year’s return is a triumphant example of pantomime’s ability to find something out of nothing, story-wise.
The lack of plot makes the Andy Gray-shaped hole at the heart of this year’s panto more obvious. Edinburgh’s favourite clown is unwell and indisposed this year. Yet – against the odds – this is a beauty of a panto, rather than a beast of a show.
Gray’s regular partners Allan Stewart as dame Mrs Potty (Beast’s housekeeper) and Grant Stott as baddy, Flash Boaby, up their game significantly. Stott steps into set-piece situations as Stewart’s foil and quickly proves his comedy chops, while Stewart has rarely been better, particularly in his audience interaction.
Elsewhere, Gillian Parkhouse’s spiky Belle is given more lines than songs – including some of the three-way routines – and easily proves she is there on merit. Daniel Cullen is his own man as Belle’s inventor brother Dougal and thankfully is not asked to emulate Gray’s patter.
Jacqueline Hughes has a fine singing voice as the Enchantress, with Chris Cowley doing his best with Beast – a character whose moral place in the story is all skew-whiff.
Director Ed Curtis keeps it relatively tight – but not very pacy – with strong reliance on songs and a fresh selection from QDos’s special effects store.