Beauty and the Beast
Chichester Festival Theatre
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Having been forced to cancel the entire 2020 Festival, Chichester Festival Theatre are continuing to steam free archived productions in the sad space left by the cancellation. The latest is the 2017 production of Beauty and the Beast performed by the largest youth theatre in the country. The Chichester Festival Youth Theatre (CFYT) showcase some remarkable talent from its young members. This performance is a new adaptation by Anna Ledwich (suitable for aged 7 +) from the 1740 French novel that has also been animated by Disney ad more recently been made into a movie.
In this classic tale the evil fairy has cursed Beast forcing him to live a lonely life of pain and disfigurement in the enchanted castle, redemption coming only if he can learn to love and be loved in return. Beauty, both in name and nature, has no enthusiasm for material possessions unlike her spoilt demanding siblings. Her love is gardening and when her father asks what she would like him to ring back for her from his travels, she merely wants a rose. However, her simple request ultimately leads to her captivity but while held in the Beast’s power, can she learn to love him and be loved?
A spectacular set from Simon Higlett dominated by a massive revolving castle and Ryan Dawson Laight’s bewitching costumes ensure a captivating visual treat.
It is refreshing to see this large ensemble brilliantly capture the eccentric characters bringing the magical story of jealousy, compassion, power and love to life. A standout performance from Crispin Glancy who clearly relishes his part as theatrical stylist Kiki and Albie Stisted greatly impresses as the young evacuee James. Mia Cunningham-Stockdale has the mammoth role of Beauty and admirably portrays the complexity of emotions as she learns to love. Mention too for Hal Darling who not only manipulates his enormous inventive disguise but also delivers powerful insight as the ill-fated Beast.
This is well constructed, inspirational storytelling with fantastical elements has all the ingredients to keep us imaginatively connected at a time when we have lost so much.