Beauty and the Beast at Beacon Park

Friday 27 August 2021 at 6.30pm

Beacon Park, Lichfield

Review by Jono Oates

After an enforced break last year IKP production company were back in Beacon Park with another one of their knock-about, family fun, gag-filled takes on a well-known fairy tales – this time it was Beauty and the Beast.  Now a regular event in Beacon Park this is the fourth one I’ve been to and this latest performance was just as enjoyable, just as funny and just as silly as all the others.

The format is generally the same – four of five actors play a host of different roles to represent all the characters in the play and this involves multi-costume changes and a frantic pace as they retell a traditional fairy tale, or classic play, but adding lots of fun, jokes and mayhem to it, making it a very entertaining show which is great fun for all the family.

The legend of Beauty and the Beast goes back several centuries but this performance was based on the French 18th century fairy tale La belle at la Bete, written by Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot in 1740. Basically, it tells the story of a beautiful young girl, Belle, who meets the Beast, the keeper of a Spooky Castle, and, despite resistance from her father and siblings, starts to fall in love with the Beast who may not be quite what he seems.

The performance took place by the facilities block in Beacon Park, close to the boating lake, and a good-sized crowd were gathered round the stage, many using their own chairs, or sat on a blanket, some having brought their picnics while they watched the show.

As usual, the show rattled along at a great pace, the script is packed with jokes, asides, puns and slapstick capers. There are great visual jokes for the younger members of the audience, and some clever word play which make the adults laugh too, so there is something for everyone.
I remember growing up in the 1960s and seeing the great, and perhaps best-known clown, Charlie Cairoli on the circus shows on TV, and although it is very childish, I always laughed out loud when the clowns would throw buckets of water over each other, and then they followed it up with the next bucket which didn’t contain water but harmless confetti. I guess you had to be there…anyway the guys repeat the old bucket of water trick and it took me back, over 50 years ago, to those slapstick days on black and white TV…and, yet again, it made me laugh out loud.

The gang of five actors were Joe Hackett, who also wrote the wrote the script, Murray Andrews, Kriste Boardman as Beauty, Nate Harter as the Beast and his alter ego, and Ollie Bradstock. All of the actors were clearly having great fun and threw themselves in to the roles with enthusiasm and good spirit, I suspect they have just a good a time as the audience do!

I look forward to these productions each year, they are light funny, entertaining, family-friendly (no bad language, a few double-entendres) and set in the grounds of Beacon Park, with the spires of the cathedral twinkling away in the background as the sun goes down and the early autumnal sky starts to darken. At the end everyone packed up their picnic blankets and folded up their outdoor chairs and went home, happy and smiling. Do the plays make you think deeply…not particularly…do they make you challenge your viewpoint on the question of life itself…definitely not…but are they jolly, silly, funny, giggly and warm-hearted…yes they are, and that is why I will be putting up my foldaway chair, popping open my bag of tortillas, taking a cheeky sip of my plastic glass of merlot and sitting down to watch their next production in August 2022!

Beauty and the Beast by IKP production company was at Beacon Park, Friday 27 August, single performance only.

More information on IKP productions can be found on their website:

www.ikproductions.co.uk

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