Bev Berridge’s inventive new script for Beauty and the Beast, which she also directs for Motherwell Theatre, is a near perfect example of a panto for an intimate, mid-scale venue. The only issue is an overlong prologue that demands too much heavy lifting from Tracey Mair as Fairy.
Berridge’s best conceptual innovation is to have Mair double as Le Fou, the sidekick to Titus Rowe’s baddy: karaoke bar owner Bouffant Du Quiff. In love with the obviously charming but unconscionably arrogant Bouffant, Le Fou dresses as a man to be close to him in a role that is not quite principal boy, as the audience is in on the secret.
The contemporary flair of this Dame-free show is significantly enhanced by Bouffant’s very real charms – until his murderous attempt on Liam Webster’s Beast – the use of a video wall for the karaoke bar scenes and the acknowledgement that the magic mirror is actually a smartphone.
Keeping it grounded in tradition, however, is Ian ‘Sheepie’ Smith’s castle odd-job man Lumiere. Smith’s local knowledge and audience rapport is astounding, while his skill in delivering the hoariest of puns is disguised by how simple he makes it all seem. Now in his 11th year at Motherwell, this really is Smith’s panto.
Elsewhere, Lisa Jayn Gordon’s tightly-drilled dance troupe adds colour and bustle, Brooke Thomson’s Belle is a strong heroine and the old-and-new song choices (including the hits from the Disney musical) gets all ages on their feet. A belter.