It doesn’t matter when the tree goes up or The Pogues played the radio, Christmas doesn’t officially start in Bristol until the Tobacco Factory Theatres’ Christmas show starts its run. After last night’s performance, it’s safe to say Christmas is Go and this is definitely going to be one of the best shows in the city.
This year, Tobacco Factory Theatres are working with New International Encounter and Cambridge Junction to perform Beauty And The Beast. The set immediately takes us into a wintry French forest where forgotten places and dark secrets lurk behind overgrown bushes, broken marbles and leafy floors.
The story is fresh yet traditional, harking back to its early roots and in the process, giving us two hilariously awful sisters that time forgot.
Elliot Davis (Anastasia) and Samantha Sutherland (Latrice) as the spoilt and over indulged pair of siblings keep the audience roaring throughout. It was almost impossible for the final message of love being stronger than hate to be delivered above the cries of laughter.
There was a genuine sibling jealousy in their cutting put-downs of Sara Lessore’s Isabella. ‘What a creep’, they would breathe to the audience. Actually, Lessore managed to be anything but, bringing out the inner beauty of Isabella whilst avoiding any possible irritations. She was gentle and loving, with an inner strength and enthusiasm.
Her relationship with Martin Bonger’s Beast was wonderful. This was no Stockholm Syndrome relationship, but one built on humour, jokes and eventually trust. The clever way the second act was turned into one long dinner event gave both characters the opportunity to develop the relationship without feeling forced.
Beast’s requistioning of dating advice from the audience provided much hilarity and allowed us to help him form a relationship with Isabella that felt safe. That’s something that is essential for storylines in 2017. Society is thankfully moving far past the figurative beating of women into submission for the happy ever after in children’s stories.
This retelling helps children see that it’s OK to say no. It’s OK not to put on the pretty dress if you don’t want to. You don’t have to tell someone you love them if you don’t feel that way.
Beast’s onstage transformation from gentleman to monster was somewhat like Basil Fawlty transforming into an American Werewolf in London. I’m not sure if it was meant to be funny or dramatic, probably a touch of both.
And that pretty much sums up Beauty and the Beast in Southville – very funny with a good touch of drama. What better way to spend an evening than being entertained by a cast of fab actors with a story showing that love can overcome hate?
Beauty And The Beast is at Tobacco Factory Theatres until Sunday 14 January 2018. This is one show this Christmas that you need to see.
We recommend it for children age 6 years upwards.