City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

Beauty and The Beast, The Brunton, Review

By Irene Brown - Posted on 02 December 2017

Keith McLeish as Dame Agnes and Raymond Short as Fraser 2.jpg
Show Details
The Brunton
The Brunton
Mark Cox and David Goodall (writers), Mark Cox (director), Lesley Smith (producer), Rhian Monro (choreographer), Janis Hart (set & costume designer), Tommie Travers (musical director), David Goodall (music arranger), Laura Hawkins (LXDesigner), Gary Boyle (sound design)
James Boal (Beast / Prince), Julie Coombe (Mordena), Keith McLeish (Dame Agnes), Martin Murphy (Angus), Raymond Short (Fraser), Mat Urey (Murdo), Eilidh Weir (Katie) Livvy Allen, Rebecca Knox, Cora Martinez-Vadillo, Callum McMaster, Emma Morrison, Natalie Witek (Group 1 dancers)
Running time: 

This is the time of year when disbelief is suspended so high that it gey near goes in to outer space. It’s the time when pop songs, dabbing, Xboxes and Strictly exist anachronistically alongside lace jabbotted and silk breeched bewigged characters who shop in places like Pidl and Guineastretcher. Welcome to Pantoland!

With the feet of dames and dullards, wicks and witches, princes and pretties across the land on the starting blocks ready for the madness that is Panto season, Musselburgh’s Brunton Theatre is one of the first off the mark with an adaptation of the 18th century French fairy tale Beauty and The Beast with the moral message of looking beyond appearances. Like so many other classics, the text has become synonymous with a big screen animated version and more recently another blockbuster film version. No pressure then!

Hamish (James Boal) is a vain, dashing, handsome Prince in the fiefdom of East Lothian. While out ‘training’ for the 400th Massive Muddy Musselburgh Marathon, he and his manservant Fraser (Raymond Short) cross paths with the wicked Mordena (Julie Coombe). When Hamish declines her proposal of marriage, she conforms to the idea that ‘hell has no fury like a woman scorned’ and casts a spell to turn Hamish from a coiffed and gleamy toothed hunk of self- obsessed manhood to a hunched and hairy, growling beast. Only love can break this spell but who could possibly love this snarling, smelly creature? Along comes bright and bouncy Katie (Eilidh Weir) who’s also in training for the marathon and is looking for a place to stay in Musselburgh with her pal Angus (Martin Murphy) and his Mammie Agnes (Keith McLeish). Where better than in the spare rooms at the Beast’s castle?

Despite good individual performances, notably from Raymond Short and Keith McLeish, the end result is flat and disappointing. The undoubted subdued response from the audience is testament to the lack of any real attempt to properly engage with them beyond the coded call for louder shouts. The scene with the giant key was a missed opportunity for some serious comic clowning that was instead rushed along and not savoured.

Beauty and The Beast is a brave attempt to bring a well- loved traditional tale to the panto stage but an over ambitious one on what is clearly a limited budget. There is a sense of a magical tale being squeezed in to panto format without much to take the place of the poignancy of the original. The only attempt to recreate the iconic living furniture and fitments were the candles on stuck on old Fraser’s shoulders and the flying monkeys flew so fast they were invisible.

The Brunton tradition of sweetie throwing is sadly missing though who knows if it’s stopped because of Health and Safety or just a matter of a lack of bawbees, but mercifully there is also a lack of inappropriate innuendo so Beauty and The Beast rates well as a family show.

As usual, the script is full of puns and local jokes that always go down well with the East Lothian crowd and but the traditional cloot with lyrics to sing from didn’t appear, instead some paddles from the wings guiding the singing of the chorus of The Proclaimers’ I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles) that most folk know anyway. Scenes seemed as rushed as the swiping of a smartphone screen and the shorter than usual running time gives a cut price feel to an evening when that vital panto spark fails to ignite.

Tuesday 28 November 2017 until Saturday 6 January 2018 Tickets are available from The Brunton on 0131 665 2240 or