A review of Beauty and the Beast family pantomine at the Fairfield Halls, Croydon.
It's been a while since I've been to a proper old school panto; once my son went to senior school at 11, he declared it too childish for him and we stopped going. When I received the invitation to review Beauty and the Beast which is playing at my local arts venue, I wondered whose child I could borrow and asked my neighbour of they'd like to come with their youngest. He declined, but their 21 year old daughter was delighted as she was the right age to have been entertained by Dick and Dom (proper names Richard McCourt and Dominic Wood) stars of BBC children's programmes, and probably best known for shouting 'bogies' in random places to startled strangers. I have to confess of being of the age to be more familiar with Derek Griffiths, the other well-know entertainer/actor starring in Beauty and the Beast.
I think that we've all been desperate for a bit of fun, and you really can't beat the joy of a pantomine. As soon as Fairy Fairfield, played charmingly by Elizabeth Ayodele, came onto stage to set the scene, the audience started to join with the action. We clapped when told to, we booed, we shouted 'behind you', and we shouted 'Bogies' every time Dick and Dom came onto the stage.
I have to admit to being a little dubious about their casting, but I'm pleased to say that I was wrong. There was the expected slapstick; with one truly hilarious scene based on the 'find the lady' game where instead of a ball under a glass, it was find the head in the bucket. As the game got faster and faster it was hard to know who was laughing more - the audience or Dick and Dom. They also performed magic tricks, as well as having surprisingly good voices.
Set in France, the story of Beauty and the Beast is well known. Prince Pierre, played by Danny Whitehead is mean-spirited and turned into the Beast by Fairy Fairfield until he is kissed by true love.
Belle played by Alice Oberg, is pretty and sweet, and courted by the vain Benedict Bourbon. (cue lots of biscuit based jokes) A man who loves himself and his appearance - just don't touch his perfect hair! And a bit of a bad boy, collecting rent, he's disliked by all the villagers. The part was wonderfully hammed up by Nic James, he had the whole audience booing him.
There is often talk of actors needing to have chemistry, and this show delivered on that without a doubt. The scenes with Dick and Dom and Professor Potage (Derek Griffiths) just exuded the fun that they were clearly having.
The story moved at a good pace, had funny jokes, bad puns, magic, audience participation, and good singing and dancing. It was hard to believe the the whole cast, including the ensemble, only numbered 10. It didn't have some of the odder parts of panto (such as the principle boy being played by a woman) and I think that this actually made it more accessible for the children attending, whom we could hear roaring with laughter.
With a happy ending achieved, we left the pantomine full of Christmas spirit. Like all pantos, it's only a short run; so download your covid pass, wear your best facemask and prepare to have a great time. Bogies!
Running from 10th December to 2nd January
Park Lane, Croydon.