Told By An Idiot has put together a bright and breezy version of this famous fairytale which wastes no time in letting you know that it’s not going to take itself too seriously.
A general sense of the ridiculous includes a strong dash of seasonal gender-swapping, with Beauty’s father played by a woman and one of her ugly sisters played by a man. In contrast to the first staging of this show in London last year, when Beauty was played by a very small actress, she is played here by Kirsty Woodward, who is 6ft tall and dressed like Olive Oyl.
The style is early 20th century European, complete with nostalgic French pop music and charming backdrops at the Beast’s house inspired by Rousseau and de Chirico.
There is a simple theatrical trickery which is calculated to delight children and connoisseurs alike. It often has a just-in-time element, as when a chair is carelessly thrown on stage by an unseen hand just as Beauty’s father is looking round perplexedly for somewhere to sit in the solicitors’ office.
The Beast’s house, beautifully designed by Michael Vale, has a moving maze of boards carried by actors.
There is a table which comes up through a trap door, a wine glass which fills itself and meals which are thrust by hands through the table cloth.
Although reputed to tear victims limb-from-limb, this Beast hardly keeps up a ferocious front for very long, soon revealing himself to be just another dumb bloke who doesn’t know how to treat a lady. He gets some advice in this area from a new character, Beauty’s faithful dog, Kronenburg.
While he is a good invention, his romance with a duck who runs a pub seems a sub plot too far. The wordy scene in the pub was the only one where I noticed the schools matinee audience with whom I saw this on Wednesday becoming restless.
With a theatre full of young children you certainly find out what they like in a show. For instance, they love trapdoors and actors entering their space, while anything to do with kissing is met with disgust. Despite the soppy ending, it was obvious they had a great time.
Running time: Two hours, ten minutes. Until January 3.