REVIEW: Beauty and the Beast @ Theatre Royal

Posted on November 29th 2019 by Whats on Northeast

Review by Andrew Bramfitt

Ask anyone what they think of as the signal that Christmas is coming and they might say Christmas adverts, songs on the radio, planning a big meal, buying gifts, the Coca Cola wagon but for me the real sign is when the Theatre Royal start their Pantomime.  Rightly heralded as one of the very best in the country, this year’s offering of QDOS’s Beauty and the Beast has taken the very best elements of the traditional seasonal fun and blown it into a new level altogether.  This is not just panto excellence, this is theatre excellence.

While some pantos have resorted to using gimics to try and set themselves apart – 3D visions, cameos by pop stars and reality tv, bizarre twists in the story,  all of them, bar none, pale into insignificance when compared to Newcastle’s finest.  Written, produced and directed by a team who all hail from or are based in the North East, this show is perfection beyond compare and instantly taps into our rich culture, heritage and love of laughing.

The story retains everything about the original and why wouldn’t it – it’s a wonderful story tailor made for panto.  The sets are exquisite, rich, deep and packed with detail.  Choreography, both in costume design and routines are like a mix of the most elegant Viennese ball and the best bits of Strictly.

Of course, what makes a Panto really shine is the cast and once again, Newcastle have the best in the country, if not the whole of Panto world.

Danny Adams, Clive Webb and Michael Potts provide so much fun they should carry a health warning, Chris Hayward as Mrs Rita Potty is the Geordie mother we all wish we had and the beautiful Laura Evans as Belle ensures we have some delightful feminine charms to counter the madness.  Nicola Meehan sets the scene for the whole evening with a breathtaking transformation from old hag to stunning enchantress whilst Chris Cowley as both the prince and the beast is totally believable as bad guy made good.  Even Wayne Smith as Belle’s desperate love wannabee elicits some sympathy, possibly in part because he is a wonderful mix of Lazy Town’s Robbie Rotten and Elvis Presley.

Having watched lots of pantos all round the country I do believe that Newcastle is blessed with something others can only wish for – Danny Adams in his finest.  Danny is worth coming to see on his own, he is a magician in his art and had this 50yr old rolling in the isles along with the 5 and 6 years olds (though often for very different reasons).  A master of slapstick, ably abetted by panto stalwarts  Webb and Potts, at times I found myself begging for him to stop just so I could grab a desperate breath or two.  He is a magical blend of Lee Evens, Norman Wisdom, Max Wall (yes I’m that old), Freddie Starr and Tommy Cooper with a penchant for tongue twisters and singing that would paralyse most people’s vocal chords.  One song in particular, where he names all the people and places in the North East should be used as by the tourist board as an advert.

What is most noticeable about this panto is that despite there being an obvious billing hierarchy, and a group who are into their 15th year at the Theatre Royal, everyone, and I mean everyone, has equal input into making it the best Christmas show in the country.

My advice, if you love to laugh, if you love to see others laugh (including the cast) and if you love yourself, then get tickets for this – you’ll be on a high for days after.

A 5 start show with an extra star for Danny Camp, this return to traditional panto is packed with laughs, stunts, knife throwing, mess, gloop, brilliant songs and bags and bags of fun.  On until Saturday 19th January 2020.

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