REVIEW: Beauty and the Beast at the Georgian Theatre Royal

Going to the pantomime at the Georgian Theatre Royal in Richmond has become a family Christmas tradition for us.

Others have lapsed in recent years, especially since the p*******, but we still hold onto a few including only eating beige food on Christmas Eve, buying each other presents that we openly want ourselves and taking pride in having the least impressive Christmas lights display in the street.

Who knows how long the panto trip tradition will continue with the kids getting older. Pantos are many things, but they’re not necessarily cool, if you’re a young adult who thinks cool matters.

Most, but not all adults, have stopped caring about cool long ago. For example, I bet saying the word ‘cool’ is now really uncool these days. Nobody who is cool has probably used the word for years. But I don’t care. Cool, cool, cool. And anyway surely it’s cool to break the rules sometimes.

“Everybody be cool this is a robbery.”  I love that line in Pulp Fiction. What a cool film.

Lucy Carne as Belle with Alex Moran as Ridgeley.

Anyway, there is sort of a point to this digression. This review is partly all over the place in tribute to the Georgian’s pantos, all of them. How can you write sensibly about something that makes no sense?  This is no criticism. If I wanted sense I’d watch the news… just joking, I’d watch repeats of 30-year-old Newsround, which is the last time much made sense to me — and even then things seemed far fetched at times.

“One day we might all have a telephone in our pockets.”

Yeah on your bike Craven, you crazy fool. And while I’ve got you, get some people who actually live in the country to help you with Countryfile.

Every year, I lose the gist of what’s happening within five minutes. This year, questions such as ‘why is George Michael a councillor’, ‘why did all the people go the castle’ and ‘who cast the spell on everyone’ are just three of the questions I pondered over a G&T at the interval.

As I say, it’s no criticism. I think Beauty and the Beast is my favourite yet, and not just because my bum didn’t hurt after ten minutes thanks to the new padded seating in the pit. And you can stick that on your poster if you want, theatre dudes, which I suspect is another word not used since Bill and Ted were on their adventures.

Marcus Jones as Gaston and Ben Andrews as the Beast.

It’s very witty. Obviously, there’s plenty of gags about mask wearing etc, but the jokes about the parking wardens, the cobbles and certain local shops are where it’s at for me. And the Wham! theme running throughout if a lot of fun too. Themes are cool.

Other things I liked was the oodles of slap-stick. The version of 12 days of Christmas was a joy — take your coat if you’re sitting anywhere near the stage  — and of course the Tunnocks Teacake tossing and hurling of knitted toys was enjoyed by all. The kids did suggest there were not enough Tunnocks distributed this year, a comment I said I’d pass on. Consider it passed.

The cast were all super-slick. Nick O’Connor perhaps had the most difficult task as he was taking over as dame from the popular Gary ‘Gacko’ Bridgens after playing the baddie in several previous pantos. But he did absolutely fine and the held the show together impressively, ably supported by others including energetic Marcus Jones, who played baddie George Gaston, and Lucy Carne, who played the beauty Belle Van Clamper. The girl can really sing.

On the way home we asked the kids whether they enjoyed the show. Pitching a panto to an audience of all ages must be difficult but our family, young and old, all really enjoyed it. The teenager even said it was… ‘alright’. There was a temptation to say he’d said it was ‘cool’, but it would have been a lie, which would have been seriously uncool.

Anyone involved in the show who may be disappointed with the ‘alright’ should note there was very much a high tone inflection on the word, suggesting ‘actually it was alright’ rather than a low, squinty nose kind of ‘it was alright but I’d rather be watching videos of a stranger play computer games on YouTube’.  This suggests to me the tradition will live on for the time being. Hope everyone has a decent Christmas.

Beauty and the Beast is showing at the Georgian Theatre Royal in Richmond until January 9.

Click here to book.