Guernsey Press on Beauty and the Beast

“A beauty of a show.

Amanda Eulenkamp rediscovered the true magic of Christmas by watching her four-year-old granddaughter enjoy her first panto – Gadoc’s Beauty and the Beast at Beau Sejour.

There’s something magical about a panto at Christmas. Oh yes there is. Whether you’re five (the age of the youngest performer) or 95, a panto offers something for everyone; slapstick, singing, dancing, a good fairy, and a bad fairy (and the requisite cheering and hissing and booing), a tale as old as time and, of course, a pantomime dame.

Which is where I’ll begin my story of a New Year’s Eve afternoon spent enjoying Gadoc’s Beauty and the Beast at Beau Sejour with my two grown up sons and my four-year-old granddaughter.

Tristan Boscher, in his dame debut for Gadoc, quite simply owned the role of Betty Brioche. The mother of Belle (Steph Boscher) and her hilarious brother Benny (Berian Jones), Betty was every inch the archetypal dame. From the clothes (congratulations to costume co-ordinator Jenny Bonham who, together with her team, smashed it) to the comedy, Betty had the audience in the palm of her hand. Especially the one person who was picked out each performance to shout ‘Bonjour Betty’ whenever Betty appeared on stage… in this case, my son, Tom, who just happens to work with Tristan… Cue plenty of laughter , clapping, cheers from the audience each time Betty and Benny – a formidable due who had great comedic chemistry – took to the stage.

Of course, the story is about Belle and how she falls in love with the Beast, aka Prince Louis (aka James Larbalestier). Cast under a spell by the evil Demon Vanity (Debbie Collins), the Beast must find somebody to love him before all the petals of the rose fall off and he is doomed to beastdom for ever. Amour, the good fairy (played by Mia Larbalestier when I went, who shared the role with Katie Luxon) and also the narrator, made sure that the wicked Vanity (boo, hiss) would not succeed in her dastardly plan.

And so the scene was set in the village of Petit Derriere as book-loving Belle found herself in the Beast’s castle returning a book that Betty and Benny had procured without permission after stating a night in the castle (complete with dancing skeletons). Having returned the book, Belle stayed on in the castle and was welcomed by the ‘Housekeepere’ (Nicole Bromley, rocking a smooth French accent throughout), cook Cusinere (Damian Waller, playing it a little more ‘Allo ‘Allo), and the Beast’s right-hand man, Valet (Ellie Luton). After a delicious meal, Belle and the Beast danced together, with Belle’s yellow dress and the Beast’s suit paying homage to the Disney version of the story. But true love never runs smoothly and Belle had to content with the attentions of the vain and arrogant Gaviscon (Dani Robin) before she got her man. Gaviscon managed to rouse the villagers to attack the castle and rescue Belle but good prevailed over evil, and Belle and Prince Louis lived happily ever after.

Director Judy Moore paced the panto perfectly, with plenty of dancing and singing in between the scenes. Congratulations to all the dancers (and choreographers) and ensemble actors who danced and sang with enthusiasm.

Writer Alex Jackson nailed the local contributions to the script, too, and I’m sure every driver in the audience laughed and empathised with the numerous road diversions that Betty and Benny had to contest with on their way to the castle.

As a family outing, it was like a step down memory lane, as one of the beauties of a panto is that you pretty much know what to expect and familiarity is part of the attraction.

When my boys were little, we were lucky enough to go to the Birmingham Hippodrome a number of times to see the panto there. Yes, those shows were very professional, yes, they had big-name stars in the main roles, but each show, whether local or professional, still has it’s ‘behind you’ scene, its sing-along scene, its final wedding scene. The joy of Christmas, they say, is seeing it through the eyes of a child, and I took great joy in seeing my granddaughter enjoy her first pantomime.

Thank you, Gadoc, to those on stage and behind the scenes for another entertaining production.”

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