Beauty and the Beast, at the Polka Theatre (review)

The Polka Theatre is a festive place to be around Christmas.  We spent a lovely afternoon there pre-Christmas when we went to see Beauty and the Beast.

Beauty and the Beast is a traditional fairy tale popular around the world but with its origins in La Belle et Le Bête by Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont.  A far cry from the Disney version, my own children were entranced by this one, an adaptation by playwright Charles Way which focuses on the story about two sisters, Beauty and Cassandra.

In the programme Charles Way is interviewed by the Polka Theatre’s Young Voices Panel, and he explains how the theme of duality appealed to him: ugliness versus beauty, town versus country, courage versus cowardice. It is the universal themes mixed in with the intrigue and action of the story that make it so thrilling to watch on stage. Plus of course there’s a terrifying Beast!

In the show you see Beauty and Cassandra as real contrasts, and when they are together on stage the energy is infectious.  The materialistic Cassandra (played by Géhane Strehler) is great fun and introduces the comedy sub plot which concerns disguise, true love and a very funny turn by Andy Chevalier. Beauty (played by Ritu Arya) of course is the good sister, who is gentle and timid at the beginning of the play, but who finds reserves of strength and bravery in her quest to find her lost father. When Beauty finds herself in the mysterious castle where her father has been detained, we encounter all sorts of magic. A malevolent housekeeper who pretends to be on your side, tables that appear out of nowhere, feasts that induce sleep. I was particularly impressed by Emma Cater, who not only played my favourite character, the totally creepy housekeeper, but who also choreographed the production. I enjoyed the fact that this children’s show is not scared of scaring its audience.

Which leads me on to the Beast. He was the children’s favourite. Played by Jason Eddy with sensitivity, his fearful features do not manage to hide his gentleness and the relationship with Beauty seems authentic. He is scary enough for the small children, but not so much that they ran crying from the auditorium.

My daughter also loved the costumes, and I loved the sets, so that’s a double well done to Laura McEwen, set and costume designer.

We loved Beauty and the Beast, and my children are not shy to say if they thought something was boring. In their age group of 8 and 10, they often find that children’s theatre is too babyish for them, but this was pitched just right, both for them to enjoy and for me. We were all delighted at the end (spoiler alert!) when red and white rose petals fell down onto our heads. I only noted afterwards that this production didn’t even need songs to hold their attention.

As we did last year, when we went to see Peter Pan at the Polka, we took the Northern line from London Bridge and walked from South Wimbledon. The Polka Theatre is a lovely welcoming theatre in South London which does not charge outrageous West End prices. We really recommend that you do your family a favour and take them there for a January treat before the end of the run.

Beauty and the Beast is on at the Polka Theatre in Wimbledon until 7th February 2016. Beauty and the Beast is recommended for 6-12 year olds but younger children can go along to the ‘All Ages Welcome’ performances.

Disclosure: We were given free tickets to see Beauty and the Beast for the purpose of this review.  All opinions are my own.  All photos taken by me. The video is copyright Polka Theatre.

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