Exploring the beautifulÂ and beastly sides of Portsmouth in The New Theatre Royal's Christmas show
For its Christmas show this year, The New Theatre Royal is abandoning the pantomime route and trying something a little bit different.
So it'sÂ out with the casting of soap and pop stars, and in with a team of unknown faces for Beauty and The Beast.
The show is an entirely in-house production and hasÂ been written and directedÂ by the theatre's chief executive Scott Ramsay '“ the action has been transplanted to Charles Dickens-era Portsmouth and Hampshire.
And Kirsty Anne Shaw and Craig Golding are taking on the titular roles. For both performers, this is their first time in Portsmouth. Kirsty is originally from Livingston in Scotland, while Craig hales from Hull, but they now live in London.
Speaking with The Guide at the show's official launch at the Historic Dockyard, they recalled their auditions. And Kirsty immediately found a fellow ScotÂ in Scott.
'He clocked on to the accent straight away and was asking where I was from. He took the audition and worked through that with us.'
He was also very hands on during the audititon processÂ '“ Scott played the Beast to Kirsty's Beauty in herÂ audition.
'It's nice to have the director up there on the floor,' adds Craig.Â 'Usually they're just sat there watching, so it was nice to be up there with him and exploring the character. He was giving me plenty of feedback which was really helpful.
In her last seasonal outing, Kirsty played Tinkerbell in Peter Pan in Inverness two years ago '“ her only Christmas-time professional outing to date.Â And it was two years ago for Craig as well, when he played Dandini in Cinderella in Dunstable.
'It will be nice to do this because it's such a huge contrast between the two characters,' says Craig.Â 'I can make a serious point with this character, where as in CinderellaÂ it was all aboutÂ playing around. It was a lot of fun, but it's nice to try something like this instead.'
When they auditioned, they were aware this wasn't going to be in the traditional pantomime style, and that was part of its appeal.
Craig adds: 'I knew this was going to be completely different toÂ what I'd done before, and there would be more straight acting, I kind of prefer that, IÂ like something you can get your teeth into.'
However, that's not to say there's no room for laughter and flights of fancy in this show. Kirsty explains: 'It's still a family show, and it's more about taking you through the story and on the journey, that's what I like about it. But it's a mixture of everything.'
While many people are familiar with the animated 1991 DisneyÂ version of the fairytale, and this year's live action film (currently the world's highest grossing film of 2017), the stars of this retelling are saying we should be prepared for something new.
'I think it will be a case of people being pleasantly surprised, it'sÂ having a different take on the story, not trying to copy anything,' says Craig.
But there will still be plenty of song and dance here too.Â Kirsty, who comes from a dancing background, adds: 'We've not started dancing yet, but I'm hoping we'll get to do a nice ballroom scene...'
New Theatre Royal, Portsmouth