I studied Jean Cocteau’s 1947 release of La Belle et la Bette (Beauty and The Beast) as part of a film module for my Degree back in 2001.
It didn’t really strike a chord at the time, but it’s funny what you remember.
Most people think of the Disney adaptation of the timeless classic, but Dukes newcomer Eddie Robson focusses on the 220-year-old original by French novelist Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont in his re-telling of the story...and a top job he does of it too.
The Round sets what is a relatively basic stage for The Dukes Christmas Show, the main focus being on the actors, and action, in the story.
It starts in a biscuit factory of all places, a fall from grace for a previously successful family, now reduced to long hours on the production line.
The plot follows the original story in structure, but flows in and out of it and re-imagines with ease – this is make believe after all.
Comedy plays a big part, at times slapstick, at others dark and delicious, overall it’s a lot of fun.
Perhaps “the message” isn’t as strong as previous Dukes Christmas shows, but this in no way takes away any enjoyment, and it’s certainly just as accessible for the kids.
Belle (Natasha Davidson) and The Beast (Gareth Cassidy) shine throughout, but performances are sturdy and often outstanding by the other characters as well.
The Beast’s costume is not going to have the younger children screaming in terror, but Cassidy’s movements and voice make him a character to be reckoned with. The court scene is absolutely hilarious, and the Beast’s “objects” - in this instance a clock, statue, soldier and hat stand - all make for highly amusing viewing.
There are some wicked twists and the idea that Beast is actually a famous actor who thought rather a lot of himself is woven brilliantly into the plot.
Ultimately it’s a growing up story, a tale of love and loss, of humility and fear, and of sacrifice. Directed by Joe Sumsion and designed by Alison Heffernan the show runs until Saturday January 2. Call The Dukes on 01524 598500 to book tickets. The show is ages five plus.
BSL Performance Saturday 26 December 7pm
Audio Description Friday 18 December 7pm
Relaxed Performance Saturday 28 November 2pm