REVIEW: Beauty and the Beast at Chichester Festival Theatre

Beauty and the Beast at Chichester Festival Theatre. Picture: Pete Jones
Beauty and the Beast at Chichester Festival Theatre. Picture: Pete Jones
Portsmouth Comic Con at The Guildhall last month

Theatre goes out-of-this-world

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The Chichester Festival Youth Theatre troupe is wishing us a merry Christmas with a specially-commissioned musical version of Beauty and the Beast. Note that. No hint of Disney here.

Richard Taylor’s excellent score is very Styles & Drewe out of Sondheim, and the cast handle his complex vocals well. Anna Ledwich’s top-notch book references CS Lewis, framing the story with World War Two refugees arriving at a creepy old house in the country.

While having the full professional backing of the Festival Theatre, one must continually remind oneself that these are young, untrained amateurs you are watching – because the level of performance is always, always astonishing from this company.

Mia Cunningham-Stockdale is effective as the tomboyish Beauty, happiest when scrabbling in the dirt in her beloved garden and far removed from her shallow, vain siblings. As the Beast, Hal Darling offers up superb characterisation whilst buried deep in the stunning puppet that is his costume.

The supporting cast this Christmas are stellar – and special mention must go to George Craig and George Waller as Beauty’s vacuous brothers, Crispin Glancy as the gloriously camp Kiki and particularly Thomas Lunn as the wonderful Dot, a morse-coding otter who handles his own particular stylised dialogue with – well – style!

Great family entertainment. Until December 31.