Home » London Theatre Reviews » Beauty and The Beast at Fairfield Ashcroft Playhouse

Beauty and The Beast at Fairfield Ashcroft Playhouse

Two years ago, I wrote a glowing review of Cinderella the first Fairfield Halls’ pantomime to be put on in the newly refurbished Phoenix Concert Hall rather than in its traditional venue of the much smaller Ashcroft Theatre (re-named the Playhouse after the refurbishment). The panto, this year is Beauty And The Beast and it has returned to the Playhouse, possibly due to the effects of covid or possibly because of the costs involved. Once again the production company was Imagine Theatre so I was expecting another great panto from them – however, it wasn’t to be.

Beauty and The BeastThings didn’t augur well when I looked into the orchestra pit and saw a set-up for just two musicians – a keyboard player and a drummer/percussionist. Then when the curtain rose the “ensemble” turned out to be just three performers which although on the smaller stage, didn’t exactly fill it up!

They were then joined gradually by the other seven members of the cast, Elizabeth Ayodele (Fairy Fairfield), Alice Oberg (Belle), Nic James (Benedict Bourbon), Richard McCourt & Dominic Wood (Dick & Dom) Derek Griffiths (Professor Pottage) and Danny Whitehead (Prince Pierre/Beast) as they told the tale of how beauty rescued the beast – a tale as old as time.

There were the usual topical gags regarding Brexit (it’s set in France), Boris, covid etc. and local gags about Croydon but none of them were particularly funny. Surprisingly there were very few songs, mainly well-known ones such as “Thank You For Being a Friend”, “Bright Side Of Life” “Daydream Believer” and “Consider Yourself” from ‘Oliver’ which popped up a few times. Even the obligatory panto slapstick set-piece, in this case, “If I were a policeman etc,” lacked energy, zip and wit.

The stars of the show were Dick & Dom, a duo whose career has passed me by but they seemed to be a double-act with two straight men. There’s obviously a comparison with Ant & Dec and this was a running gag for a while as ‘Professor Pottage’ was convinced it was them on stage. Dick & Dom’s catchphrase “bogies” ran through the show and I’m sure the very young children in the audience thought it was hilarious as they had to shout it out every time the duo appeared but it must have bored even Dick & Dom as they gave up on it after a while. However, it did return at the end when they blatantly plugged a ‘Bogies” t-shirt that was on-sale in the foyer for £20 (although the price wasn’t mentioned!). The rest of the cast did their best with some very ordinary material but the whole show was a little lacklustre until the end when a medley of old rock and roll songs got the audience going. However, the real star of the show was the set which was shiny and bright with lots of changes of scene. I presume this has been used in other productions as there is no Set Designer listed in the digital programme – amazingly there were no physical copies on-sale – another effect of covid?

When I wrote my review back in 2019, I said: ‘Why does the band have to play at rock concert levels!‘ If I was a parent of one of the hundreds of young children attending the show, I’d be concerned about the noise level which was turned up to twelve let alone Spinal Tap’s legendary eleven! This time it seemed even louder in the smaller hall and a parent sitting next to me had to go to her car to get ear-defenders for her daughter. And my watch warned me that it was a “loud environment” so it must have been very loud to set that off. The decibel level needs to be sorted out as children have sensitive hearing and the music and some of the singing was far too loud for a young audience.

Over the years, I have been to a number of pantomimes at the Ashcroft as it’s only ten minutes from where I live. I’ve taken my children and then my grandchildren (one of them appeared in one of them) but this stripped back version of Beauty And The Beast is very ordinary fayre to put before the people of Croydon. In these difficult times for theatres everywhere, you can forgive cost-cutting measures but this needs to be balanced by good material and on that count, this production fails. Although I obviously didn’t enjoy it, I have one caveat and that’s the fact that all the children in the audience seemed to be loving it and they’re the people that count – I only hope their ears aren’t still ringing – mine certainly are!

2 gold stars

Review by Alan Fitter

The show tells the story of a Prince who is cursed by an Enchantress and turned into a Hairy Beast, will he find true love and reverse the curse? Will village girl Belle be able to see his true heart under his beastly appearance? All will be revealed. Featuring all the ingredients of a traditional pantomime including big song and dance numbers, side-splitting comedy, lots of audience participation and a huge sprinkling of pantomime magic this is a show that will delight young and old.

Beauty and the Beast Family Pantomime
Ashcroft Theatre
Fri 10 Dec 2021 – Sun 2 Jan 2022
https://www.fairfield.co.uk/

Author

2 thoughts on “Beauty and The Beast at Fairfield Ashcroft Playhouse”

Comments are closed.

Scroll to Top