Beauty & The Beast (review)

Beauty and the Beast. Photo by Bill Cooper.
Beauty and the Beast. Photo by Bill Cooper.

FORGET the Disney version of Beauty and The Beast. David Nixon’s stunning version of the story has been transformed into a mesmerising dance spectacular by The Northern Ballet.

It’s success at Milton Keynes Theatre this week (and, if you missed it, coming to The Waterside in November) is largely down to Martha Leebolt’s breath-taking (and exhausting) performance as Beauty. She is on stage for almost the entire performance.

The story opens with the vain prince bewitched by a fairy and turned from a once handsome royal into a creature devoid of looks or manners. At the same time Beauty and her family are struggling with debts. After losing their home they are at the mercy of the creatures in the forest – until their desperate father makes a pact and the young heroine is sent to the Beast’s castle.

The story of how love conquers all is lovingly told although young children may find it a more sombre story than the dazzling cartoon version. There are no silly dancing spoons and plates or comic elements from periphery characters.

It did, however, throw my concentration when the opening scenes were accompanied by Saint-Saens’ Danse Macabre, best known to television watchers as the theme tune to Jonathan Creek. There I was, wandering what Alan Davies had to do with Beauty and the Beast, when the wonderful dancing weaved their own magic spell on my thoughts.

Kenneth Tindall comes on when needed as the handsome Prince Orian, but it is the intensely physical performance of Ashley Dixon as The Beast that is most fascinating. I thought his makeup and movements took inspiration from kabuki while the beautifully attired good fairy looked as though she had just stepped off the front of a Rolls-Royce.

The costumes were, as always, uniformly stunning, and the dancing faultless, as you’d expect from one of the country’s premier ballet companies. It is also wonderful to hear a live orchestra accompanying the performances.

Beauty and the Beast runs at MKT until tomorrow night. For tickets call the box office 0844 871 7652 or go online www.atgtickets.com/miltonkeynes

ANNE COX