Beauty and the Beast
15th Dec 2015
What do you get if you cross a bit of magic, a good witch, a beautiful girl, and a handsome prince, with a wicked wizard and a terrible curse? Answer...a Tale as Old as Time! And if you cross that tale with some brilliant actors, beautiful dancers, fabulous costumes and some really terrible jokes - you get this year's Panto at the People's Theatre! In their press release they say that the People's panto has become something of an institution in Newcastle and they are not wrong. The auditoruim was filled with people of all ages.
This year's panto has tradition with a capital T. It takes a traditional tale and gives it that special Newcastle pantomine twist - with all the local jokes, poking fun at the neighbours, and so of course my home town gets a bit of stick, along with with the posh (and not so posh) bits of Newcastle itself! Greggs the Bakers and the Co-op are all fair game. In fact, if you're a northern institution and you don't get a mention you might want to ask yourself why not?
You know exactly where you are with Beauty and the Beast from the excellent backdrops and stage set, to the goodies and baddies there are no surprises - well apart from the bangs and flashes of magic - we ought to have been ready for those but somehow they did catch us out and had us jumping with shock and surprise! Those bangs are LOUD! We booed and hissed at at the devilish Diablo (played with a truly awful french(??) accent by Roger Liddle, and the hideously evil, Camilla Parker-Bike (Sarah Scott plays the self-serving mayoress with rather worrying assurance, keep an eye on her - she'll be nabbing all the best leading roles!) and her odious brother Claude ( James Beresford Simpson - Ding Dong, Belle! He does make your flesh creep!).
Of course we Oui-Ouied with Bertie (nous sommes, indeed, votre amis Joe Robson!)
We laughed at jokes that we'd heard before and a few that we hadn't and we cheered and screamed when required! The monster was always behind them and they never believed us. We played along and sang along and we were happy and we knew it!
Dancers from Jill Errington's School of Dance and Newcastle High School for Girls provided the Awwh! factor, and Clann Na Nagel Irish Dance Academy provided elegance, glamour and fancy footwork (to even the balance for Dame Fifi - her glamour is just a tad less subtle, being All about the Bass as she is!)
The costumes are fantastic - Belle (Emma Jane Richards) has beautiful gowns, As, of course, does Dame Fifi Latrine (Steve Robertson) but best of all is the Beast - Craig Fairbairn is hidden for under a magnificent fabulously "fluffy" mask complete with flowing mane and ferocious teeth!
The music was excellent with numbers such as C'est la Vie, Somebody to Love, and All About the Bass as well as Be our Guest and the signature Beauty and the Beast, Tale as Old as Time.
A good Panto keeps the audience engaged throughout, and the cast certainly did that on Tuesday evening - solid performances from everyone including Anne Cater as Bon Bon, Kevin Gibson as Professor Baguette and either Minnie Dobson or Lottie Glover-Stewart who both play Millie who is the foil to Bertie and provides a lot of the incidental humour (if it is possible to have incidental humour in a panto...?)
Was there anything not to like in this? Well the sound wasn't quite right - mics weren't working as well as they should so some of the terrible punchlines were almost missed if you weren't paying attention, but I'm sure that glitch will be sorted. Other than that it was hard to tell (as usual for the People's Theatre), that this was an amateur production. A brilliant set, fantastic dancers, terrible jokes and a happy ending (oh yes, there is!) Great family entertainment and possibly their best panto yet!
It plays until 20th December and is a snap at £14 a ticket - why pay more?