Playing it for laughs

Linlithgow Players 'Beauty And The Beast'
Linlithgow Players 'Beauty And The Beast'

Linlithgow Players’ opening performance of Beauty and the Beast last week had all the essential ingredients for a classic family pantomime.

Set in a provincial village in 19th century France, the show followed the story of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, with a few funny panto twists.

Les Fulton opened the show as Ma The Dame, mother of Beauty and Jacques, and purveyor of most of the punchlines. With his outrageous blue wig and Scottish mammy style accent, you could see that he was emulating King’s Theatre panto veteran Allan Stewart.

The story kicked off with a royal visit to the village, which resulted in Prince Christoph (Craig W. Lowe) taking an immediate shine to Beauty (Laura Neary).

However, disaster struck when the jealous witch Malabelle (Sue Vizard) breezed onto the stage “in a whiff of Chanel” and turned the prince into a hideous beast.

Sue took to the part of the fabulous villain like a duck to water, drawing vigorous booing and hissing from the audience with her witch’s cackle.

The story was narrated by Beauty’s family’s “lovable” poodle, Felix (Alasdair Maciver), who was an irritating and slightly creepy character.

Lying on the stage begging for his belly to be rubbed by poor Capucine (Therese Gallacher), it was just a profoundly weird moment. As the family gathered around a meagre fire, wondering what they could possibly eat, I couldn’t help but think “that dug”.

Although the musical numbers weren’t much to write home about, the performances from the young dancers of Central Scotland Ballet School - who have collaborated with the Players for a number of years - were wonderful; the highlight being their arrangement to music from Swan Lake during the first half.

The second half concluded with that all-important panto essential – a happy ending. Beast left his furry face, booming voice and stormy temper behind with a restorative kiss from Beauty and it was summer and smiles again in the village.

Full credit must go to Craig for his portrayal of Beast though as, during one of his fits of rage, a child in the audience actually cried. It wouldn’t be right to say that the show ended in tears however.

The audience was all too happy to participate in the obligatory sing-a-long and cheered on the heroes and heckled the villains throughout. Fair play to the cast for enthusiastically rousing everybody to get involved.