site search by freefind advanced

 Connecting professional and amateur theatre in Newbury, West Berkshire and beyond

Haymarket - Beauty and the Beast

9th to 31st December 2011.

Review from the Newbury Weekly News.

In the eye of the beholder

Beauty and the Beast, at The Haymarket, Basingstoke, until December 31

If you are looking for an alternative to the plethora of pantomimes in the area, The Haymarket's Beauty and the Beast may well fit the bill. This is not the saccharine-coated Disney version that most of the very young audience will have seen but a much darker slower and more sinister production.

Steve Hawes adaption is perhaps a little wordy to capture the concentration of the little ones and Stephen Solloway's music, recorded by the Brodowski Quartet, is melodic but repetitive.

The set design is simple, using a revolve stage to reveal the Beast's castle and the hovel that the family lives in but it disappointingly lacked attention to detail and was ponderously slow and used to excess, turning at every possible occasion.

The two puppet deers were a nice touch and acted as narrators and the kids loved them.

The vain Prince has been cursed and turned into a Beast for refusing to marry the Empress of the forest and has to remain as a beast until he finds someone who truly loves him in spite of his appearance.

Oliver Stoney had the dual role of playing the Prince and the Beast wearing a huge horned head mask that was more beautifully groomed than scary but he did manage to rouse the audience's sympathy towards the end.

Maurice, the father, gets lost in the wood and picks the perpetual rose from the Beast's garden that he was saving for his love and is imprisoned by the Beast who eventually agrees to release him if one of his daughters is substituted.

The father (Mark Rawlings) returns home where his two selfish petulant daughters Matilda (Dani McCallum) and Harriet (Jo Castleton) are desperate to find husbands. Their caterwauling provides the comic contrast that was needed to balance the darkness of the Beast.

But it is Beauty, the delightful Anne-Marie Piazza, who gives a sincere and captivating performance, that agrees to go and stay with the Beast.

Nick Underwood was impressive as the sympathetic Crow and gave a super cameo performance as the Italian tailor.

Beauty slowly falls in love with Beast despite her sisters' efforts to keep her from him.

There were touches of magic when Beauty persuades the Beast to free the butterflies with some delightful animation projected onto the backcloth.

Beauty and the Beast can be a most enchanting show but unfortunately director Paul Chamberlain's Beauty was a disappointingly lacklustre production.


There is a review in the Basingstoke Gazette ("Anne-Marie Piazza proves she has a stunning voice to match the rest of her accomplishments").