Culture Writer Charis Gambon attends Beauty and the Beast finding the show to display an array of life lessons for the audience

Written by charisGambon
Images by Emma Ferguson

On the 26th November, I went to the Old Rep Theatre to see the BOA performance of Beauty and the Beast. The performance was certainly not what I was expecting, but it was interesting nonetheless. You will find none of the classic Disney songs or character names within this production. Instead, it opted to stay closer to the French tale with modern twists.

Writer Toby Hulse and composer Steve Allan Jones created an exciting re-imagining of the timeless fairy-tale for all the family to enjoy. Modern aspects of life that everyone is surely aware of featured within this production, including ‘likes’ and ‘TikTok.’

Whilst being a fun production for all to enjoy, there was also an aim to demonstrate a few life lessons. With the most important lesson being that if you believe something is, it will be so. This lesson is taught through the students and their labels for each other and through the treatment of the Beast. Instead of choosing to change Beast back into the ‘handsome’ prince at the end of the production, the focus is placed instead on attitude and personality, suggesting that everyone recognised the prince because they no longer wished to see a beast and he no longer saw himself as one either.

Whilst being a fun production for all to enjoy, there was also an aim to demonstrate a few life lessons

Students Izzy played by Connie Sharpe, Theo played by AJ Savage and Roland played by Ross Baxter hear the story of Beauty and the Beast from their French teacher Madame Villeneuve. She chooses the story to demonstrate the power of self, and the danger of labels and stereotypes. Demonstrating to the students that real beauty is not external but rather internal, found within the soul. In an attempt to persuade them that they need to look beyond stereotypes peddled on social media platforms. Social media certainly enlarges stereotypes and labels but it certainly did not create them and the story shows that it is an issue that has always needed to be overcame.

The original music and songs by Jones compliment the message that social media, labels and stereotypes are not all that matters. While the songs are not as catchy as the iconic songs, they are perfectly created for the message. The young students of BOA sing the songs so powerfully and they are all talented individually and collectively.

She portrayed a kind, sweet, dedicated and slightly curious Belle which is true to the character

Mable Edwards embodied the role of Belle superbly. She portrayed a kind, sweet, dedicated and slightly curious Belle which is true to the character. Her chemistry with Cameron Dews as Beast was absolutely superb. The emotion and growth of characters between the two was absolutely visible for the audience to see.

Max Coleman showcased an incredibly vain and shallow depiction of the stereotype of masculinity. In this version the character who fits the damaging view of what a male should appear to be is called Avenant. Avenant never thinks of anyone but himself but you cannot help to be drawn into the character while also despising his demanding and selfish nature.

The most recognisable costume from the original that you will find in this rendition is Belle’s French village style dress. The dress is more of a traditional dark blue with a lace up front and it was certainly my favourite costume. Costume designer Leanne Fitchett did a superb job with her aim to use inspiration from the 18th century while also updating aspects. The Garcon D’herbes are a perfect example of this blend in their 18th century inspired outfits that are also spice girls inspired.

The production overall was incredibly unique and engaging. Certainly suitable for people of all ages, I would definitely recommend the production for families or children as young people can enjoy themselves while also learning that vanity is not all.

Rating: 4/5

Enjoyed this? Read more from Redbrick Culture here!

Theatre Review: Noughts and Crosses – A Double Perspective

Theatre Review: A Christmas Carol

Theatre Review: The White Card