Reviewed by Katy Hart
Oxford Playhouse Pantomime epitomises the great old British festive tradition of pantomime once again this year, with their production of Beauty and the Beast. Packed full of all the essentials with plenty of audience participation, slapstick comedy and featuring a new take on modern songs, we saw love triumph and the villains redeemed (well by most of the audience).
The pantomime was written and directed by Steve Marmion and is based on the original story which was first written in 1740. There have been several versions of this original story, perhaps the most famous being the 1991 Disney film which was the first animated film to be nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars.
This version creatively tells the story with a few additions and changes which all added to the fun and enjoyment.
Belle Beauty Brightside played by Roseanna Frascona lives in the small Belgian town of Ox-Sur-La-Ford with her inventor Father Endo (Stephen Hoo) and her best friend Brian, the singing and dancing Orangutan (Ricky Oakley). They are cursed by the witch Kardashia (Dev Joshi) who incidentally has the most incredible vocals, and had she not been the villain could have stolen the show, and her companion Slick Rick (Ed Kingsley). The Prince (Matthew Staite) brought about this curse by not allowing the witch to stay a night in his castle when she was caught in a terrible storm. She gave him a rose and cursed anything from growing, in particular the beautiful red roses that Beauty adored. The storyline I’ll leave there, but there are some very creative additions including meeting a very animated and amusing fox (Adrianna Bertola) a favourite among the children, and Dame Potts (Philip Pellew) who was full of ‘tea’ gags and gave an absolute quali-tea performance. The Melon Man (Paul Biggin) was such a fun character, and in a land where nothing grows, where did he get those melons from?
We went as a family with my two older children (ages 15 and 13) and although panto may be thought of as something you’d share with a younger family, we had a fantastic, fun afternoon, and they were not too cool to be joining in with the ‘He’s behind you’ and sharing in the traditional fun of pantomime. It really is something that is suitable for all ages from the very young children, who sat mesmerised by the singing animals, to the grandparents, who got almost as much enjoyment from watching them as the pantomime itself.
The energy and enthusiasm of all the cast (especially young company), along with the excellent costumes, staging, choreography and exceptional live music ensured this year’s production is the perfect festive family afternoon or evening treat. We had a lovely afternoon and would thoroughly recommend this for all the family to enjoy this Christmas.
Oxford is always a busy city and even more so at this time of year. We easily found parking at the Seacourt Park and Ride and after a short trip into the city we hopped off at Park End Lane and had a short walk to the theatre. The Oxford Playhouse is always a warm and welcoming theatre, with clean facilities and good comfortable seats, slightly staggered to offer great views (even with someone taller in front of you).
Tickets cost from £15 to £34 (booking fees may apply).
Beauty and the Beast is at the Oxford Playhouse from 29 November 2019 to 12 January 2020, for more information or to book tickets visit www.oxfordplayhouse.com or call the box office on 01865 305305.
Oxford Playhouse, Beaumont Street, Oxford, OX1 2LW | 01865 305305