Last weekend we were invited along to watch this year’s Oxford Playhouse panto, Beauty and the Beast. What did we think?
This is Steve Marmion’s fifth outing as writer and director of the Oxford Playhouse pantomime. Several of the cast members were familiar to me too; many returning for another year of panto silliness.
Marmion’s version of Beauty and the Beast is a loose interpretation of the original story. And, as it’s a panto, all of the usual elements are included too. There are local references (Wittenham Clumps gets a mention), birthday announcements, sweet giveaways, a singalong and the inclusion of some game audience members. Suffice to say, there’s a lot to get through in two hours, perhaps at the expense of the two main characters.
The show offers up the usual mix of songs from musicals (this year from Wicked and Hairspray) and old chart hits (including The Killers, T’Pau and Katrina and the Waves). The ensemble performances of these songs were the outstanding highlights of the show. But, Mr Marmion, I spent the entire panto waiting for a version of Step On by The Happy Mondays. How can you have a character called Melon Man and not slot those famous ‘twistin my melon man’ lyrics in?!
Some aspects of the show were a little random, even by panto standards. A bizarre version of ‘What did the fox say’ and ‘Titanium’ made for a surreal combination, although I might add the fox, who also plays the mayor, had a brilliant voice. As did all of the female cast; their singing was uniformly excellent.
My favourite characters were the baddies, Witch Kardashia and Slick Rick who both played their roles with gusto. They thrived on the audience interaction, although I felt sorry for anyone from Swindon!
Dame Potts, played by Philip Pellew, spent most of the performance dressed as a teapot, the reason for which becomes clear towards the end. He delivered a slew of tea based one liners, made all the more impressive when I learnt he’d replaced the original Dame at short notice (due to illness).
Above all this is a family friendly show, with no smut or innuendo and minimal politics. If you’re looking for a Christmas show that the whole family can enjoy then Beauty and the Beast is for you. The show runs until Sunday 12 January; tickets cost from £15 and are available from the Oxford Playhouse.
Disclosure: I received free tickets from Oxford Playhouse for the purpose of this review. The review is my own opinion of the show.