I’m starting the post with a health-warning, or maybe more a Mystic Meg sort of premonition- if you want tickets for next year’s Everyman Open Theatre Festival‘s production for younger audiences- book in advance. And quite a way in advance.
I forgot to book tickets for this year’s ‘Beauty and the Beast’, the final production of this year’s Everyman Festival until early-July, how naive, it was practically sold-out already, especially as I was looking for a family ticket.
Fortunately with tickets purchased we were able to visit Sophia Gardens during summer weather (a rarity at this time of year), the perfect day for the little people’s first ‘outdoor theatre experience’. I managed to offset their grump that there was actually a roof over their heads by pacifying them with Fablas ice-cream:
Of the performance itself, I guess one of the most difficult things in life is the high expectations children have of us, and presenting Beauty and the Beast brings out the most uncompromising child given its own strapline ‘tale as old as time’.
Fortunately for this parent, the Everyman Theatre and fantastic cast stepped right up to the mark. There was no need for meaningless platitudes from me, this had every element to ensure the children in the audience were taken right along with the fairytale. There should of course be another health warning, seeing your favourite Disney animations on stage is a completely different experience, a child seeing the Beast actual growling on stage as opposed to a cartoon form may frighten the more sensitive or younger audience, so definitely prepare your little ones for ‘Disney Baddies’ if you are preparing for a day out next year.
And whilst E sat on my knee pacified the Beast wasn’t so scary really, B and CM disappointed with the seats mummy had sourced made their own viewing space:
And, of course, we all loved it, from the moment Charlotte Tonge stepped on the stage as Belle all three were hook, line and sinker.
The cast was exceptional, as the story unfolded the well-known songs offered a sense of familiarity, but the stage presence, humour and script allowed the engagement to be maintained. Whilst the stage was minimalistic, the cast did a fantastic job in creating the atmosphere to each scene, from the village square- the spooky forest- and of course, the castle.
And whilst CM obviously loved Belle and the villagers, it is the Castle’s enchantment which always hook me in, and I loved Mrs Potts (Helen Flanagan) as she took on the role to perfection along with stunning performances from Lumiere, Chip and Cogsworth.
The production was everything a child wants it to be, the cast engaging, the staging convincing, and the big song, for us, ‘Be Our Guest’ was spectacular.
Ben Joseph Smith had the audience commanded as the Beast, and successfully managed to convince the audience as he pacified us that the Prince had found his heart… and maybe I shed a tear as everyone became themselves again.
Productions like these are absolutely gold dust, being able to bring Disney to the stage in such wonderful surroundings, with local talent is something Cardiff should definitely be waving a flag about.
Proving that dreams really do come true.