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Eden Court pantomime Beauty and the Beast is the Belle of the ball as Imagine Theatre's family-friendly production combines big heart and big hilarity – as well as references to Donald Trump and Brexit – in Inverness


By Kyle Walker


REVIEW

Beauty and the Beast

Eden Court, Inverness

*****

A TALE as old as time, true as it can be - Beauty and the Beast is one of the most beloved of all stories for very good reasons indeed.

The way that romance slowly develops between Belle and the Beast, the smarminess of its villain, the puns on stock markets and “boullionaires” and the part where Cameron McKlinkie gets clarted in cream by his dame mother Fanny McKlin-wait, hang on a second...

Yes, it’s Beauty and the Beast, but not as we know it. Eden Court’s raucous, silly and sweet panto version has a lot of what audiences have always loved about the classic story - but with a gleefully anarchic twist.

Imagine Theatre’s production is another triumph for the panto-makers, returning to Inverness for another year of festive frolics, as they find an adroit balance between the story’s romantic, fantastical core and the cream-throwing, pun-slinging, villain-booing trappings of the medium.

Holding up the more straitlaced elements of the production, Christie Gowans’ sweet, headstrong Belle and Jamie Crockart’s furious, oddly-vulnerable Beast craft between them a believable, delightful romance.

Crockart in particular makes the Beast worthy of our empathy even as he roars and threatens. It’s a tricky balance, the Beast - he’s a character who’s petulant and poisonous, but who actively strives to and succeeds in improving himself and changing his ways.

The two sparkled together during a recreation of the famous ballroom dance from the movie - the two serenading each other with a stunning, showstopping rendition of Bruno Mars’ Just the Way You Are that crackled with romantic energy.

That the dinner which preceded the dance was pie, beans and chips was a suitable reminder though that this was still big, silly panto fun - and this was a lot of big, silly panto fun.

The villainous Balloch Bennochy (Chris O’Mara) oozed with braggadocious, selfish smarm, right down to his every entrance being accompanied by a short burst of LMFAO’s Sexy and I Know It.

But the real standouts were, as you might expect, the panto dame Fanny McKlinkie and her hyperactive son Cameron. Steven Wren (as the former) and Ross Allan (as the latter) had a wicked comic chemistry that sparked every time they were together on the stage.

Between the two of them, they had the Eden Court audience roaring and rolling in the aisles through every quick-fire punning, movie title-referencing, contemporary-quoting slice of dialogue.

All the requisite jokes about Donald Trump and Brexit sat alongside references to Instagram and Snapchat - as well as the usual local references one would expect from a local panto.

It all came together wonderfully though - between the silly jokes, cream-soaked dames and genuinely heartmelting romance at its centre, Eden Court and Imagine have created a beautiful family show that would be the Belle of any ballroom.

Oh yes it would.



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