Review: Beauty and the Beast at the Northcott Theatre
Written by ExTS Reviewer, Alex Parsons
Last night I had the honour of attending Exeter Northcott’s 2019 Panto: Beauty and the Beast. The show is a broad take on the story we know and love combining elements from various re-tellings of the original fairy tale as well as some entirely original aspects.
A special congratulations must be made to Daniel Buckroyd, Artistic Director of the Northcott and the show’s writer and director, who stepped in to play the role of Cupid due to a cast member illness. His acting ability was not at all hampered by the script in his hand.
Cupid is our narrator and we join him on a quest to unite his 100th couple so that he may retire and finally find his own true love but, of course, the evil ex-love-messenger Nightshade has a different idea of how this story should go. Though some of the modern jokes may have fallen slightly flat they were still enjoyable and very much aided by the stellar cast. My, what a cast! I can only assume this was down to the creative team as no casting director is mentioned in the programme, but whoever it was deserves an immediate pay rise! The much-loved Steve Bennett makes a wonderful return to the Northcott pantomime, though not as the Dame. This year, he plays the eccentric sugar salesman Monsieur Marzipan. My favourite performance had to be that of Francesca Pim as the slightly ditzy but ever joyous Souffle (Yes, that’s her name!). My only wish would be that she had the chance to show off more of her vocal range. The stand-out vocal performances come from Sarah Moss as Belle and, most surprisingly, Daniel Buckroyd, our unexpected Cupid.
The actor’s performances were further encouraged, as always in panto, by the energy coming from the fantastically enthusiastic audience of both adults and kids. No doubt including some families who were able to attend due to the 1000 free tickets initiative funded by Salcombe Dairy and donations from the public.
It’s heart-warming to see such high-quality theatre being produced in Exeter. It’s very evident that the whole team at the Northcott has poured their heart and soul into this production to make it one of the best pieces of theatre Exeter has seen in recent years. The cherry on top has to be the colourful and eccentric designs by James Button (Sets and Costumes) and David W Kidd (Lighting). None of the design elements were overly complex but they complimented the show perfectly. Dame Betty Bon-Bon’s costumes were always a showstopper with each new outfit getting a wondrous applause on her entrance.
The first act drew a little long and I began to wonder whether this was actually a one-act show (It’s not. The first act was only around 70 minutes). Though the script was slightly episodic with some scenes not always logically or consistently following the plot, I wouldn’t change it for the world. The most entertaining scenes being the ones that veered away from the main plot to show us typical pantomime antics such as Dame Betty Bon Bon’s cake baking or the skeletons haunting Monsieur Marzipan’s bedroom!
The Northcott’s panto made for a wonderful night out for all the family! Beauty and the Beast is running at the Northcott Theatre until the 5th January 2020. Tickets start at just £10! https://exeternorthcott.co.uk/calendar/beauty-the-beast/ . I also recommend buying a programme as it contains a vast amount of interesting information from behind the scenes and the Northcott’s history as well as some fun games for the kids to play in the interval!