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For Brum Radio’s Interval Theatre, Beauty and the Beast Director, Alec Fellows-Bennett talks about bringing this classic story to the The Old Rep stage with a modern twist.
By Dave Massey twitter.com/BrumHour
Review: Beauty and the Beast at The Old Rep
A quirky fun modern production!
Directed by Alec Fellows-Bennett, written by Toby Hulse
Told as a story within a story, Beauty and the Beast is the big 2022 production from BOA and The Old Rep. Ms. Villeneuve (Freya Hancox) is a school teacher dealing with a loud and brash class including, Theo (AJ Savage), Izzie (Connie Sharpe) and Roland (Ross Baxter) who explore the story of Beauty and the Beast. In the story, Belle (Mabel Edwards) finds herself living in a castle with a mysterious Beast (Cameron Dews) to secure her the release of her father (Ewan Hughes-Williams) who stole a rose as a gift.
The subjects of obsession with image, photo filtering and public perception are at the forefront, as the initial setting explores how some young people feel isolated in their peer group. Then the Beauty and the Beast story picks up on the themes of being judgemental about people and skin deep beauty. The production almost feels like two stories with this split narrative but they become more interwoven as time ticks on.
There is a large cast to juggle here and the production features not one but FOUR successive different casts, one for each of the four weeks at The Old Rep. The cast listed in this review were at their final performance before handing over to a new cast next week. There are plenty of song and dance routines and this cast feels most relaxed during these numbers, particularly when it is the whole group.
There are plenty of random Midlands-Delboy French accents here which adds to the humour of the situation, but the teenage angst is handled carefully as are the romantic elements of the story. I’d have liked to have seen more of a mix of Birmingham’s demographic at this performance but with three other casts there is likely to be other representation there. (I’ll always say that Birmingham productions can reflect Birmingham more and the show even made an announcement about this production striving towards further inclusivity and theatre being for everyone! Bravo indeed!)
Ross Baxter steals every scene he is in as the hyperactive Disney-loving teenager Roland, and Freya Hancox‘s vocals are also a stand out here, Cameron Dews delivers a charming and mysterious beast whilst Mabel Edwards is suitably thoughtful as Belle, developing love for her imprisoner.
This is a production aimed at a younger audience and it has plenty of daft jokes and easy-going humour, with lots of nods to modern culture for young people to enjoy.
A quirky fun modern production, Beauty and the Beast is at The Old Rep until 16th December 2022. Find out more about booking tickets >> HERE <<.