Ben Andrew as the Beast with Nick O'Connor as the dame
Ben Andrew as the Beast with Nick O'Connor as the dame

THE Christmas celebrations start here with Beauty and The Beast, The Georgian Theatre Royal in Richmond. This is a panto, which has a completely different feel to every other panto. After a couple of hours in the theatre, you feel you’ve made a new group of friends. With the warmth atmosphere of the theatre and the cast, it felt like I was sitting in the living room with friends I’d known for years.This strong version of Beauty and the Beast is again written specially for the theatre by Clare Allen. This local feel opens in Richmond Marketplace, as Minnie Van Clamper and his young team as parking attendants, a great vibrant opening. The Castle is heavily featured as the home of The Beast.

After spending the last few years, pre Covid, at the panto at The Georgian, I would spend the night booing and hissing at Nick O’Connor as the baddie including Uncle Abanazar and the evil fairy Maleficent. This year he has stepped into the enormous shoes from two previous Dames, Dominic Goodwin and Gary Bridgens. Thankfully, Nick O’Connor soon settled into his role as Minnie Van Clamper. He definitely has a very different style to the two previous Dames, but as the audience warmed to him, he grew in stature, becoming a firm favourite by the end of the night.

The story follows Beauty and the Beast loosely with plenty of twists as Minnie Van Clamper ends up being pushed into the castle by the evil George Gaston, Marcus Jones, where Minnie is turned into a chest of drawers. Cogsworth and Lumiere are both played by Alex Moran. Belle Van Clamper, Lucy Carne, is invited into the Castle and as ‘lockdown’ begins they are stuck there together, where Belle begins to fall in love with The Beast, Ben Andrew.

One of the favourite scenes, every year, is the knitted items. This year, the audience are invited to save the love by throwing knitted hearts towards The Beast, it was loved by the children as well as the adults.

The Young Company, which were ‘Team A’ the night I attended, were a delight and I always love the way they include them as part of the cast and are integral to the script, not just there to fill the stage with dancers. They all proved they were highly talented.

A Perfect night for Christmas cheer, with a mix of great comedy, delightful singing, colourful costumes and there might even be a Tunnock’s Teacake available.

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