Ponteland Repertory Society performed a family friendly ‘visual feast for the eyes’ with an hilarious, modern pantomime take on the classic Disney version of the Grimm’s fairy tale of Beauty and the Beast.

Audiences commented on the professional performance: ‘It looked so slick, was absolutely brilliant and just what everyone needs right now,’ said audience member Carol Emmerson. The sold-out audiences in Ponteland Memorial Hall were treated to a professional level audio-visual experience as the society used a state-of-the-art video wall for the first time and some terrific lighting and visual effects.

The quality of Tom Whalley’s hilarious script, Director Hayley Grant’s creative direction and choreography and the fantastic ensemble cast performances impressed the audiences and Michael Avery from the National Operatic and Drama Association. Transformation was the key theme of the show. Kieran Murray’s Beast went through an incredible physical and emotional transformation from arrogance and anger to love and humility with believability. His Belle, beautifully played Amber Covington, provided the perfect counterpoint, displaying courage and kindness throughout as well as some fantastic singing and dancing in the infamous golden dress.

Humour was provided by the added pantomime characters; Dame ‘Nanny Nightnurse’, played by Alex Neal, supported by Claire Long as cheesy character ‘Brie’. There was great comic timing between the duo – as well as some fantastic physical comedy including slop scenes and slapstick which the audience, particularly the children, loved. ‘Nanny Nightnurse’, of course, terrorised the folks on the front row and got some great audience engagement.

No pantomime is complete without the competing forces of good and evil. ‘Good’ was provided by the ‘Spirit of the Mirror’, a fairy godmother character sympathetically portrayed by Caroline Reynolds and Belle’s Inventor Papa, sensitively and humorously portrayed by Jason Long. Evil was represented in human form by the obnoxious and self-centred ‘Franque’, perfectly captured by Mike Giblin and his
hapless sidekick ‘Clochard’, humorously played by Sarah Blythe, and an evil Sorceress ‘Sacre Bleu’ played alternately between Suzie Neve and Jules Stevenson Warrender, both of whom displayed some excellent vocals with ‘I put a spell on you’ and such scary costumes and attitude that elicited lots of hisses and boos from the vocal audiences!

Disney’s magical objects were also wonderfully brought to life. Saucy condiments set ‘Poivre’, played by Sue Clugston, and ‘Salé’, portrayed by Gav Warrender, were respectively elegant and grumpy and bounced off one another effortlessly. The two little teaspoons played by Alix and April stole the show with their cute appeal.

There was also an excellent supporting cast of henchmen, wolves, sprites, silly girls and castle guards, provided by Chloe Cooper, Kate Wallace, Colin Richardson and Simon Rettig, all of whom captured their many parts terrifically and created a strong impression.

Audience members praised the overall effect: ‘such good value for money in these difficult times for a really high-quality production
right in the heart of our community,’ said audience member Andrew Lowery.

Every production takes a whole unseen ‘cast’ of many and Director, Hayley Grant, was keen to thank her two Assistant Directors, Sarah Blythe and Amber Covington, Stage Manager Peter Bayley, Prompt Lesley Eltringham, Set Designer John Eltringham and the many others who helped backstage and front of house.

Looking forward, PRS have a full calendar of events for Spring 2024 and tickets for the next 2 events can be purchased now from TicketSource.  We are always looking for new members and any one interested in joining either on stage or behind should contact us using the online form or by emailing claireelainelong@hotmail.com.

Ponteland Repertory Society’s 2023 Pantomime Review – more ‘Beauty’ than ‘Beast’!