Tis the season of the panto, where we often seem to forget that no fairytale story is ‘canon’ and can be tweaked, prodded and teased into 2017 material. I mean, if Sleeping Beauty’s Maleficent can have a back story now then surely Beauty and the Beast can have a gender flip?
Fat Rascal Theatre think so and to say ‘oh, yeah, it works’ is an understatement – you can read my interview with writer and Beast Robyn Grant here! For some reason my plus one forgot I work in comedy and thought this might be rather a worthy theatre endeavour, ramming gender politics down the audiences throat. But it is a refreshingly smart, sparky show that takes on gender roles with a wink, a nod and – most excitingly – no stereotypes.
The Beauty role is taken by a mother-loving Beau but this isn’t a lazy gender swap in which women are simply gruff and men fey. Instead Beau (Jamie Mawson) is indulged by his bohemian artist mother, played by Allie Munro, who is off on her trusty ‘bicyclette’ through the woods to sell her art. Of course chaos ensues, can Beau shake off the advances of Chevonne and save his mother from Beast?
The writing – by Robyn Grant and Daniel Elliot – is extremely gag-heavy, meaning sometimes the audience missed jokes that deserved a laugh, and makes more than a sly reference to the Disney retelling of Beauty and the Beast, which is incredibly satisfying. I’d also like to point out the incredible generosity of the writing, every character has a killer line and nobody is allowed to fade into the background, not even the mob. There’s a joyful sense of DIYness to the show, although I should be clear, it’s incredibly slick – any issue with having a small cast is solved with hilarious aplomb, and possibly a bonnet.
The cast seem to be enjoying themselves immensely and a risky call back hits the mark when it could have left the show with egg on its face. If you’re looking for a hilarious night out – I really can’t think of anybody who wouldn’t enjoy this – unless they’re a bloody misery, take all your friends and family and see this show!
Fat Rascal’s Beauty and the Beast: A Musical Parody is on at the Kings Head Theatre, London until 6th January. For tickets and more information click here!