The Unity Theatre’s Christmas show sees them once again pairing with children’s theatre company Action Transport while working in collaboration with Liverpool disability and Deaf arts organisation DaDa Fest.
The resulting Beauty and the Beast, written by Kevin Dyer, is a charming story of friendship created with children at its heart. It feels truly inclusive with the majority of songs and dialogue incorporating BSL.
This is not your typical pantomime. Instead of innuendo there is whimsy. The cast of four cavort across the stage with Lecoq-levels of physical comedy, exemplified by Simone Lewis’s clowning butler.
Edward Day makes a delightful Beast, whose beastliness manifests in bad table manners and a habit of stomping around the castle like an adorable moody toddler. Rose-Marie Christian’s Belle manages to be genuinely sweet without becoming saccharine. In her, the not-so-ferocious beast finds a pal rather than a love interest making for a playful take on the classic.
Though Lena Kennard’s design may not have any of the dry ice, sequins and whizz-bangs of panto, it’s full of elegant details. From gold highlights on the costumes to billowing red curtains, it’s refined and stylish.
What director Nina Hajiyianni’s production lacks in rhinestones, it more than makes up for in heart. The Beast’s isolation and anger stem from feeling horrible inside after being bullied – this is something with which most children (and indeed, adults) can, unfortunately, identify.