More ambitious than previous New Vic Christmas productions, Beauty and the Beast isn’t quite accessible to children as the others, but does a good job for the mostly adult audience it attracted instead.
The first thing I have to congratulate the New Vic for is making it through the Christmas season in one piece. I hardly need remind you of what a nightmare it’s been a second year running. Their sister theatre the Stephen Joseph, having bucked the trend last year so well, ended up cancelling half its run. From my end of the woods, only two of the five Christmas productions made it through the full run. And yet somehow, the New Vic has made it unscathed. That alone will be welcome news: the New Vic Christmas production is one of the most lucrative ones around, running well into January to cater for the school parties from miles around queuing up for tickets. This is not the first time they’ve impressed me with their resilience: when I saw The Wind in the Willows three years ago, I saw surprised to discover Mr. Toad dropped out sick, a minor character stepped in at short notice, and the rest of the cast covered his parts – and made it look like that’s how they planned to do it all along. This time round, maybe it was just luck. But well done anyway – I don’t know how how did it, but you made it.
But I digress. There are no finishers medals her, we must look at the play itself. This production, postponed from 2020 (with its small-scale replacement Coppelia itself postponed seven months), is Theresa Heskins’ take on a fairy story, but unlike a certain very popular touring show going on right now, this one goes to great lengths to avoid the Disneyfication. The 1990s film, classic though it is, took major liberties with the original plot – which is fine, but in all of the subsequent stage shows and live-action remakes Disney has an irritating habit of behaving like their animated films are the originals rather than take a second look at the source material. Heskins, on the other hand, brings back long-forgotten parts of the original book. Rather than being transformed into a Beast for refusing shelter to an old woman (which I always thought was a bit of an over-reaction), his predicament comes about from the Goblin wars in revenge for his warmongering warrior-Queen mother, which is a more understandable. And so the stage play begins with the little-known tale of the Goblins spinning their tales of mischief – mischief that unfortunately escalates rather quickly.Continue reading