Lily Canter reviews Beauty and the Beast at The Core at Corby Cube
With no animated clocks, teapots or candelabra in sight Beauty and the Beast performing now at The Core, Corby Cube, is a delightfully austere version of the classic fairy tale.
Returning to the 1700s version written by French author Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve, the story of love, redemption and family is played tongue-firmly-in-cheek by a talented and musical sextet from New International Encounter theatre company.
Set in a 1920s French forest with sparse props including a sprinkling of autumn leaves, a versatile wheelbarrow and wooden floor that doubles as a table, the stage reflects the less-is-more moral of the story.
Like gutsy heroine Isobella who enters the beast's mansion alone not knowing what will happen next, I braved the theatre on my own with three highly excitable six-year-olds.
At first they were a little confused that the play did not include well-loved characters from the 1991 Disney cartoon, but they soon got into the spirit of heckling the beast and dancing along to the amusing ditties. A particular favourite was the mid-dinner rap where a table-top dancing beast begs Isobella to let him be her "beastly fella".
Plenty of giggles were to be had amongst the feminist and anti-capitalist undertones, helped by an array of instruments which kept the mood light.
The second act worked better for audience participation, at times taking a welcome step into pantomime territory, and Isobella's vile twin sisters maintained a sense of light relief amidst the darker moments.
Although this is a charming and thoughtful production some of the scenes were rather prolonged particularly the extended dinner scene which became rather repetitive.
Unlike last year's madcap Christmas show The Wind in the Willows, Beauty and the Beast suffers slightly from a lack of pace and is perhaps better suited to older, more patient children.
* The show runs at The Core at Corby Cube until Sunday December 30. Visit thecorecorby.com/whats-on/beauty-and-the-beast to book.