This year’s pantomime at the Theatre Royal Bath has two elements to it: the Disney-fied tale of the impoverished Belle (Clare Maynard) and the cursed Beast (Shaun Dalton), and the traditional panto sketch numbers and singalong moments.
The latter of theses works a lot better than the former. Returning favourites Nick Wilton and Jon Monie, as mother-and-daughter duo Polly La Plonk and Louis La Plonk, keep the audience entertained, providing most of the laughs and most of the audience interaction.
The storytelling parts, however, work far less successfully. Maynard’s Belle is perennially chirpy and sweetly unwilling to write-off the angry reclusive Beast, despite what everyone tells her. But their interactions are scripted almost entirely without jokes and because there’s little genuine chemistry, the scenes end up seeming oddly flat and lack the pizzazz needed to keep the festive atmosphere alive.
The result is an uneven show that doesn’t always hold the audience’s attention, although post-interval the pace and the general energy levels pick up and it becomes a more buoyant affair.
Monie is, as always, very sweet when talking to the group of volunteer children on stage. Likewise, the inclusion in the pantomime of a group of young performers from the Dorothy Coleborn School of Dance (a local performing arts school) gives the production a nice community feel, making up for some of the less engaging aspects of the show, which could do with a little bit more fairy dust to really make it fly.