Beauty and the Beast, Brunton Theatre, Musselburgh, Review:
*** 3 Stars
“a production that’s not quite a tale as old as time”
The Brunton pantomime promised a tale as old as time as “Beauty and the Beast” comes to the heart of east Lothian and delivers a production of two half’s.
The first Act is sadly not pantomime, with no actual pantomime content in the script, instead focusing on delivering plot with a few comedy lines scattered throughout. Writer/ Director Mark Cox and Writer/Music Arranger David Goodall have clearly cut and pasted a script together and abandoned all pantomime traditions, for example a good panto baddie should make their entrance stage left, not at the Brunton, Julie Combe’s excellently performed baddie “Mordena” makes every entrance stage right. The first act is also painfully short at just 44 minutes which does nothing to alter the image that it’s a Christmas show not a pantomime before you.
Act 2 does ramp up the panto goodness with a slick “Ghost “gag delivered by the wonderful Dame Agnes (played and pitched to perfection by Keith McLeish, who sadly has just one costume, traditionally a dame should never have the same costume twice) and her silly son Angus (played by the deliciously gorgeous and talented Martin Murphy). The songs pick up a pace and audience interaction kicks off with a mass sing a long to “500 miles”. Again, script and direction deliver some odd choices in the songs, “Malibu” is included for no known reason that neither enhances the show or develops the story it’s just there. Closing out with a section of shout outs, the song sheet and walk down it’s a brisk 50 minutes of panto fun in this act.
Production wise it’s a sumptuous affair, the set and costume design by Janis Hart takes up the full stage and its clear a lot of money has gone on the beautifully painted clothes and set that shimmers under Laura Hawkins lighting design. The draw back in the wardrobe is there is only one costume per actor, not even a change for the walk down, a traditional panto staple, its particularly noticeable in the dame. Special effects are not present but simple things like the Beast’s transformation require more than just simply turning off the lights and making the audience wait.
Music Director Tommie Travers has delivered the goods, not only performing the songs from the pit but also scoring all the incidental music including a beautiful and haunting love theme that is scattered throughout the production. He would have been boosted by the inclusion of a live drum/percussion and a guitar or two, but the click tracks deliver a full sound regardless.
Over all this is a part pantomime part Christmas show that does not fully deliver because of the confused writing but it’s the stellar small cast, rounded out by James Boal as the brilliant Prince/Beast, Raymond Short as the prince’s servant Fraser, Eilidh Weir as the lead girl “Katie” and Mat Urey as the baddies assistant “Murdo” that truly bring the best out of the show and make sure the audience young and old go home with laughter and Christmas cheer.
The Brunton’s Beauty and the Beast needs a better script and more elements of pantomime and the return of a tradition or two to make it truly shine, but for a first-class band of actors, stunning set and music, this is a production that will remain a tale as old as time.
The Brunton Theatre Presents “Beauty and the Beast”, Brunton Theatre, Musselburgh, Runs until Saturday 6th January 2018 Tickets from £13.50 go to www.thebrunton.co.uk/events