Beauty and the Beast - Old Rep Birmingham

Beauty and the Beast - Old Rep Birmingham


Posted 2022-11-27 by dpmfollow

Fri 18 Nov 2022 - Fri 16 Dec 2022

If audiences are coming to the Birmingham Ormiston Academy Beauty and the Beast at the Old Rep Theatre expecting a Disney version of the fairy tale, they may be surprised by the show they watch but they won't be disappointed. This production has returned to the original French fairy tale but has also brought the story bang up to date by framing it with a group of school pupils who question the very story at its heart.

The show begins with a group of five girls known as the Perfects filming themselves singing about social media – ready to share with their followers. For this group, appearance is what matters, an element underlined when a handful of other students arrive and are ridiculed for the way they look. But when their school teacher decides to tell them the fairytale of Beauty and the Beast they learn that it is what is inside each person which really matters.

Written by Toby Hulse, the production takes us back and forth between the land of fairytale and the students and their teacher acting almost like a chorus or commentator on what is happening between Belle and the Beast and ensuring the audience is also asking questions about the traditional story. That's not to say this production is all worthiness, it's actually a lot of fun and the student cast are more than up to the challenge of their roles. Mabel Edwards is a charming Belle who is prepared to put her own safety at risk through love for her father but is also ready to stand up for what she believes when she has to.

Cameron Dews' Beast dominates the stage in a goat-like mask and humped back and yet inside that interior we see he is anything but beastly and with Belle he is tender and loving.

The production gives plenty of students opportunities to craft their characters. Freya Hancox is the teacher Mme Villeneuve who leads the youngsters through the story, reminding us not only of what is happening but also of its significance. Max Coleman is Avenant, the man in love with himself, who preens and poses with plenty of gusto while Ross Baxter is Roland, a wannabe popstar in a Christmas jumper.

Steve Allan Jones' songs fit perfectly in terms of story and character and have lots of catchy rhythms and clever lines – which makes it all the more frustrating that at times the words are drowned out by too loud music.

Directed by Alec Fellows-Bennett, the 90-minute show whizzes by, moving from school into fairytale and back seamlessly. It also looks fantastic. The sets designed by students Georgia Wakefield and Grace Simmonds take us into the Beast's palace and garden with roses spreading into the auditorium. Leanne Fitchett's costume designs are packed full of imagination from the fearsome Beast through to the household objects which have become personified including the clock, candlestick and bottle of wine.

Like so many shows, this Beauty and the Beast was delayed because of Covid and it's great to finally see it reach fruition. Bringing together a professional team of creatives and an enthusiastic and talented number of students, it has proved once again that BOA's shows are among the highlights of the Christmas season.

Note: Beauty and the Beast features four different casts, each cast on stage for a week with the press night cast performing until 26 November.

#theatre -reviews
!date 18/11/2022 -- 16/12/2022
70821 - 2023-01-26 01:49:37


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