Festival Theatre Edinburgh – Saturday 16 March 2019
Reviewed by Manetta McIntosh
For those whose knowledge of Beauty and the Beast is grown from the house of Disney, then be prepared for a very different experience. This production from David Bintley is closer to the original story. It opens with Belle in a library looking for a book and then cunningly the scene changes to the uncaring Prince hunting in the woods with his friends. They are tormenting a fox when a woodsman casts a spell, turning the Prince and his friends into a Beast and animals respectively, and the fox into a young girl. The story then follows a wealthy merchant who has 3 daughters, he thinks his ships are lost at sea but then hears they have been sighted. He travels to meet them and promises his daughters a gift on his return, Belle’s sisters are materialistic and ask for dresses and jewels but Belle has a simple request for a sweet smelling rose.
The merchant gets lost in the woods during a storm and finds respite in an enchanted castle. Once rested he makes his leave but remembers the rose for Belle, as he picks one from the garden the Beast catches him, he agrees to let him take the rose but makes him promise to send his youngest daughter back as a trade for his own life. The story then unfolds as most of us know it, Beast loves girl, girl doesn’t love Beast, Beast let’s her go and almost dies, girl realises she does love Beast and everyone lives happily ever after.
Delia Mathews, who plays Belle, is an incredibly graceful dancer who epitomises the classic picture of a ballerina, her dancing on pointe was on point, did you see what I did there, her solos were a thing of beauty…I’m on a roll. The role of Beast was played by Tyrone Singleton, he showed incredible strength in his performance, his ability to hold Belle in pose whilst simultaneously lower themselves to the floor was a testament to his muscularity.
It was not all doom and gloom, the production was peppered with humorous performances by Monsieur Cochon (James Barton), his signature leg-shake had us all in stitches as well as his interaction with Belle’s sisters, Fiere (Ruth Brill) and Vanite (Samara Downs). Grandmere (Laura Day) put another chuckle-worthy performance and, my favourite, Raven (Tzu-Chao Chou) whose stage presence had swagger in abundance.
The dance of the birds was cleverly choreographed, although I am not a fan of chaotic music, this particular part of the score captured the chaos of birds in flight perfectly. The music and the dancing was paired beautifully, matching the emotion of the act.
The set design was astounding, the ease with which the set changes were performed transforming you from being ‘lost in the woods’ to being within an enchanted castle was bewildering. A minor Disney moment was enabled when the castle chair moved into position and ‘lumiere’ glowed. I particularly liked the final castle interior set, when the sheets at the window were removed and the glistening light from outside was magically revealed. I’m not going to lie, Angela Lansbury was singing in my head at the end.