Review: Beauty and the Beast at the King’s Theatre, Edinburgh

Review: Beauty and the Beast at the King’s Theatre, Edinburgh

by Alan Grant
article from Friday 14, December, 2018

IT’S UNFAIR for any performance to start out with something missing. It’s especially unfair if what’s missing is an integral part of the usual way of doing things. For this reason, this year’s King’s Theatre pantomime, Beauty and the Beast, started off at a disadvantage before the curtain even twitched owing to the absence of Andy Gray, that long-time Edinburgh panto stalwart and favourite. Gray, the regular clown who this year had been cast as Mr Potts, is unwell and had to miss this year’s show. This publication and this reviewer extend their best wishes to Andy for a speedy recovery.

Andy, however, can rest and recuperate easy because his fellow cast members have matters well and truly in hand – Beauty and the Beast is a spectacularly well-done pantomime. An achievement made even more impressive by the necessary rewrite the production endured.

Allan Stewart (pictured), who in the firm of panto dames is very much the boss, is the undisputed star of the show for his performance as Mrs Potts. Stewart knows his way around outlandish rouge and a cartoonish shower cap and his comic timing, glib fourth wall breaking, and talent when it comes to holding an audience are unmatched. Plus, there’s no one better in the business at producing howls of laughter from audience interactions.

It is, however, when Stewart is joined on stage by fellow King’s regular Grant Stott that the show really gets going. Stott, who plays the baddy “Flash Boaby”, has a great time lumbering about the stage trying to control his own laughter while also being very funny, especially when he plays with Stewart with whom he has wonderful chemistry, and even gets a song or two. Stott’s self-awareness, while lethal for any other performance, is ideal here and it becomes very clear that many of the jokes are at his expense and he takes them all in good humour – although he did pick on me during an hilarious audience participation segment, so boo!

If criticisms are to be made, they would be that Gillian Parkhouse’s Belle, while clearly possessing a fine singing voice and decent acting chops, isn’t given a whole lot to do – with the exception of acting as a foil during the hilarious scene in the Beast’s castle. This absence of material also applies to Chris Cowley’s Beast and Jacqueline Hughe’s Enchantress. They feel more like incidental characters who are only there to move the plot along (well, what there is of it – but come on, we all know this one, right?) It really is Stewart and Stott’s show; which is fine in itself but leads to an occasional one-sided feel to things.

The direction and art design are fine, perhaps a little cluttered, and everything else works as it should – not exceptional, not terrible, just effective. One slight niggle is the overabundance of special effects, but again, this isn’t particularly important.

However, regardless of these very minor complaints, Beauty and the Beastshows that even in the absence of Andy Gray’s usual mesmerising buffoonery the King’s is still the best theatre in town from which to get your panto fix. The jokes land effectively (especially when Stott and Stewart load their AK-47 full of food puns), the dialogue is fun, it looks great, and it’s all delivered with the enthusiasm of a group of mates who are putting on their show for a pal who can’t be there right now but who they can’t wait to welcome back. If you’re in Edinburgh this Christmas, take the family to go see Beauty and the Beast; it’s absolutely brilliant.

Beauty and the Beast is at The King’s Theatre, Edinburgh until 20 January 2019. Photo: by Douglas Robertson courtesy of the King's Theatre

 

 

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