The Dukes Lancaster
Beauty And The Beast
Friday 20 November 2015 - Saturday 2 January 2016
review by Alan Chard
A familiar tale with a twist in the tail - exactly what The Dukes has produced for this year's Christmas treat.
Originally written by French novelist Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont and published in 1756 (La Belle et la Bête) (source Wikipedia) the tale has been retold countless times in theatres, on television and movies. The Dukes' own Artistic Director had his very first exposure to theatre at The Dukes more than 40 years ago and saw a production of the same story. Beauty and the Beast can rightly claim to be one of the classic tales.
While keeping to the original story remarkabley closely, this adaptation by Eddie Robson has some modern twists that engage the audience. The action is set in the round, so the audience is as close to the actors as possible. The set itself is Art Deco period with some interesting additions and is used in many imaginative ways during the production. Costumes are lavish and add significantly to the visual experience. (see photos below)
The wealthy merchant and his three daughters have been reduced from their former lifestyle to working in a biscuit factory where the tale begins with the actors performing mechanical actions until the end of their shift, followed by an exuberant scene of song and dance. The whole story is fast-moving and engaging throughout and suitable for all ages. The Dukes suggests a minimum age of five for this production, and that's right. The children in the audience were not frightened by the beast, but sat, like the rest of the audience - spellbound and quiet, totally absorbed by the story unfolding so close that they could reach out and touch it. Theatrical techniques were used to great effect throughout by a group of actors who worked wonderfully well together.
An all-action festive treat of a show that held a mixed audience mesmerised throughout, wholesome family entertainment in the finest tradition that I cannot recommend highly enough.
Alan Chard, November 2015