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Beauty and the Beast Review - Liam Dearden

If you're looking for some Festive Family Fun this holiday season, look no further than The Torch Theatre's Christmas Pantomime Beauty and the Beast, which is a true delight for the whole family. From the moment the front cloth lifts, the audience is transported to a magical world of fantasy and adventure. Directed and written by Artistic Director Chelsey Gillard, this production captures the essence of what makes a pantomime sparkle and shine! It's the perfect balance of comedy and emotion, or should I say emulsion. 

Pantomime season is well and truly here and what a great story to be showcasing. When the Beast takes Belle's father prisoner, she won't let him get away with it... Oh, no, she won't! Join Belle, her magical Fairy Godmother and the Beast's clumsy Butler on this fun adventure for the whole family. Beauty and the Beast have been around since the 1700s. Authored by Gabrielle-Suzanne Bardot de Villeneuve. You’ve seen this story adapted for film and stage multiple times before, but what Gillard and the Torch Theatre have produced is something rather unique, putting a twist on this Tale as old as Pantomime, evolving it and making this enchanting story their own.

Gillard's script ensures that audiences will laugh, cry, boo, hiss and cheer in equal measure. It is a testament to her talent as a writer and director as throughout she pulls out all the stops with elements we’d expect alongside tropes and themes that make panto traditional and an integral part of Christmas whilst also modernising it by setting Belle's adventure in Milford Haven and the surrounding towns including Pembroke Castle which doubles as the Beast’s home. There are also plenty of meaningful messages and timeless lessons about right and wrong, good triumphing over evil, and above all else, it's not what's on the outside but what's on the inside that counts. a settlement that I share alongside fellow reviewer Val Ruloff. Whether you're a child experiencing the wonder of pantomime for the first time or a seasoned theatregoer, there is something truly magical and captivating about experiencing theatre at its best, and ultimately, that's what the Torch provides.

Another aspect that I particularly applaud is the inclusion of the Welsh language throughout the production. This not only educates younger audience members but also enriches the experience for older ones. It is a wonderful way to celebrate the Welsh culture and add an extra layer of authenticity to the storytelling.

The set design is grand and golden, creating a visually stunning backdrop for the story to unfold. Alongside the sets, the costumes, all designed by Kevin Jenkins, are both period, ornate, and contemporary, adding to the overall charm, allure, and spectacle of the production. The original music by James Williams adds a magical element to the pantomime, enhancing the overall experience. The catchy tunes and beautiful melodies had the audience humming along, ultimately immersing the audience even further into this magical tale. And the lighting designed by Jane Laljee is effervescent.

Alongside the talented crew who brought the production to life, it's the performances from the incredible cast in Beauty and the Beast who are truly outstanding. Their energy and enthusiasm truly bounced off one another as each actor brought personality and charm to their respective roles, creating a memorable and engaging experience for all. Samuel Freeman, portraying the Beast, showcases both the gruff exterior and the tender heart that lies within. Freeman brings such depth to the role and what a voice the song Beast sings is heartfelt. Leila Hughes, as Belle, captivates the audience with her grace and strength. Ceri Mears, as Good Fairy Gertrude, is fabulous providing the laughs alongside the many costume changes that Gertrude has, favourites being the Map dress, light-up sneakers and the baffling headdresses that feature a Wind Dial, Umbrella and the Ice-Cream tub. Ceri Ashe, as Evil Fairy Shadowmist, is deliciously evil with another fantastic original song. Both Fairies add depth to the story with their powerful performances. And that’s not all, Amelia Ryan portrays the Beast’s clumsy Butler Crystal providing more laughs and one-liners, which are hilarious! Ryan is also fantastic at slapstick and physical comedy alongside her fabulous and catchy Llanelli-styled Calypso “Hello Plants” and Lloyd Grayshon portrays the lovable and goofy adventurous father of Belle! The entire cast deserves applause for their commitment and talent.

The panto's side-splitting humour was a hit among attendees, both young and old. Gillard's script was infused with witty one-liners, clever wordplay, and well-executed slapstick comedy, eliciting uproarious laughter from the audience at every turn. The comedic timing of the cast was impeccable, and their interaction with the audience added an interactive element that further heightened the enjoyment.

Overall, The Torch Theatre's Pantomime Beauty and the Beast is a must-see this holiday season. It guarantees an afternoon or evening of festive family fun that will leave you feeling uplifted and entertained. Don't miss out on this enchanting holiday experience. So, gather your family and friends and make your way to the Torch before the last petal falls.

Beauty and the Beast are at the Torch Theatre through to Sunday, 31st of December. Tickets are selling fast for everyone’s favourite tale, as old as time. For more details and to book yours, go here.



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