REVIEW: Beauty & The Beast, Jellyfish Theatre Company (The Warren, Brighton Fringe)

Tale as old as time: Handsome prince is cursed by angry beggar lady and destined to live out his days as a hideous beast in castle full of talking fixtures and fittings. Weary father happens upon castle and incurs beast’s wrath. Beautiful daughter trades places with father to prevent him being turned into a lasagne. Beauty and Beast engage in relationship erring on the edge of Stockholm Syndrome. Life threatening event causes Beauty to declare undying love for Beast. Curse is broken. Everyone lives happily ever after. So far, so Disney. With an added side of lasagne.

Mummy was slightly apprehensive about how the munchkins would react to watching a non-Disney version of Beauty and the Beast. Especially as we had come back from Disneyland Paris the day before. How does a small-scale show at a fringe festival compete with Disney princess perfection? The answer is that it doesn’t try. This Beauty & the Beast is not billowing ball gowns and tap-dancing table. It’s cardboard scenery and coconut horse hooves, performed by a cast of four dressed in jeans. And it’s really good fun.

This is very much a fringe show. The effects are unapologetically amateur and allow the storytelling to take centre-stage. Although there is no novel twist to the narrative, there are lots of comical additions that make this a really enjoyable retelling. And as with all good family shows, much of the comedy is aimed squarely at the adults of the audience. Stylistically, it probably sits somewhere between a pantomime and a comedy revue, and is a great example of how effective storytelling does not require elaborate sets and expensive costumes. All it needs is a good imagination. For us it was a great contrast to the slick, glittery world of Disney. And it got the thumbs up from the munchkins, who were as happy to have their photos taken with Beauty and the Beast of Brighton as they were to meet Mickey and friends earlier in the week. For that, Mummy awards it a rating of raindrops, whiskers, kettles and mittens (aka four out of five of my favourite things).

Catch Beauty & The Beast at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

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