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This Beast is best!

REVIEW: Beauty and the Beast - Swan Theatre, Worcester (until Sunday, January 2, 2022).

LIKE a dazzling shaft of light piercing the last year’s lockdown gloom, the legendary Worcester panto is back with a bang and bursting with brilliance.

Oh yes, it is! And director Paul Milton has really surpassed himself this time, serving up a steaming Christmas pudding that oozes with fun, frivolity, and is fantastically fast paced.

Is that enough alliteration for you? Oh no, it isn’t! I’m on a roll, so we’ll persist with the theme, folks.

Right - let’s get down to the silver sixpence in the pud. Well, to tell the truth, there isn’t just one, for the whole cast shines brighter than burnished brass with a gorgeous gleam greater than gilded gold. Enough. That’s quite enough alliteration for one review, thank you – Ed.

Anyway, first of all, let’s talk about Jack Giblen’s Beast. Yes, he rants and roars, huffs and puffs with self pity, but hey – isn’t that a real tearjerker of a scene as he lies on the couch dying from love sickness?

And doesn’t Charlotte Swarbrick’s achingly compassionate Belle play a tragic tune on the old heartstrings as she not only tries to comfort, but also commits to getting hitched to a creature that appears to have been constructed from a random mixture of deceased zoo animals’ body parts.

Oh yes, this is indeed a show that explodes with talent, one that stretches the seams to breaking point, more expansive than even the Dame’s billowing bloomers.

Katy Staite endlessly twinkles as Fairy Star, Charlie Ryan’s Idle Jacques is an absolute hoot as he blunders and bungles across the stage, while Mark Carey as hapless Hugo almost asphyxiates the audience with his frighteningly fearsome flatulence.

I loved the witch, too – even if Giblen’s Prince didn’t. Boo, boo! You’re not supposed to say that, are you? Well, I must say that Nadia Shash turned wickedness into an art form in a cacophony of cackles, croaks, toothy grimaces, and all the while resplendent in a get-up danker than the darkest dungeon. This is my last warning about all this alliteration – Ed.

The action takes place in France, a minor miracle in itself perhaps, bearing in mind mean old Macron’s recent edict banning tous les rosbifs. The setting is therefore perfect for Daniel Cane’s Madame Bonbon, who milks the old Gallic cliché for all he – or rather ‘she’ – is worth.

Invited to let rip, the audience scream “Moi, moi, moi!”, wonderfully ignoring, or perhaps forgetting, the current Covid paranoia and panic as millions of droplets exploded far and wide across the auditorium with glorious abandon.

And yet… the credits don’t end there. For this panto is very much a joint effort, thanks to the directorial skills of Paul Milton, Sarah-Jane Morgan’s production, and Helen Leek’s choreographic genius.

She seems to have built on her extensive experience to create electrifying dance sequences which inject the glu

e that holds everything together, the musical impetus being provided by Debbi Lindley’s inspired musical direction.

Worcester Rep has undoubtedly built on the city’s proud panto tradition to deliver a Christmas cracker of a show. But there’s more to it than that… for the fact that this seasonal entertainment has returned also delivers a defiant two-fingered salute to the virus that has affected so many people’s lives over the last 21 months.

Pictured: The Swan panto… a Christmas cracker of a show.

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