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Beauty and the Beast: Jubilant panto has audience roaring enough to peel gilding off the Everyman’s ceiling

Theatre: Driven by very attractive singing and by Anth Kaley’s musical direction, the pace is helter skelter

Beauty and the Beast at The Everyman

Beauty and the Beast

Everyman, Cork

Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice may not swim immediately into mind for most audiences of Beauty and the Beast. Yet both share a fairy-tale quality that, short of accusing Miss Austen of plagiarism, carries the same moral relevance, usually summed up in the advice not to judge a book by its cover. That adage at least is joyously endorsed by the cast, creative team and crew gathered here for this Everyman and Cada pantomime by Catherine Mahon-Buckley, its producer and director. The prince is the book and the cover is the beast, and the simplicity of this plot allows for hilarious deviations from what, as with most folk tales, is a simple assertion of the triumph of good over evil.

As a folk tale the narrative has clouded origins and several versions, so it is not surprising that this retelling touches very lightly on some crucial aspects of a discernible original. There is no room for the classic drama in this interpretation, but perhaps the omission is not noticed in such a jovial nod to Disney’s rearrangements. Instead, a charming if topographically innovative setting from Olan Wrynn announces the location as Cork’s Cornmarket area, improbably an easy walk from dense, castle-hiding forestry.

In the city centre Peggy Twomey’s sweet shop provides Fionula Linehan’s voluble retailer with the maternal instincts of Austen’s Mrs Bennet, if more highly charged and certainly with a larger, louder and entirely more sympathetic audience, to judge by the loudness of the response. Topicality is all; although Brendan O’Connor keeps it current on RTÉ Radio 1, the Corkonian patois may be unfamiliar now with younger viewers, but here it is employed in the witticisms exchanged by characters rejoicing in the opportunities offered in Karl Harpur’s script.

Beauty and the Beast at The Everyman
Beauty and the Beast at The Everyman

An endearing Marion Goggin is the intrepid and bookish Belle, while Pádraic Di Fusco, prowling like Notre Dame’s Quasimodo, is Prince William. Chloe Riordan as Charlotte and Irene Warren as Barbie are both brightly excellent given that Barbie may also be a feather duster. Gaston (aka Gasbag) is played by Michael Sands, gorgeously strutting the stage like a long-legged jockey, while Andrew Lane is Johnny La Fool (Lefou).


Driven by very attractive singing and by Anth Kaley’s musical direction, the pace is helter skelter. Be My Guest is cleverly adapted and outsings a daft quartet about the alignments and colours of refuse bins. And then there is Shandon (Cogsworth, anyone?) and Sparky Loonie (Lumiere?), and so it goes, with audience participation reaching pitches to peel the gilding off the Everyman ceiling.

There are mistakes; the shopworn vulgarisms fall flat, and while Maeve Readman’s wig and make-up designs must have been perfect on the page, on stage they are worn awkwardly, although Gaston’s may have been a deliberate puncture to his pomposity. Garnished with a sprightly chorus, a dance team led by choreographer Phil O’Callaghan, the colourful costumes from Jessica Healy-Rettig, lighting by Ronan O’Shea and Shane Healy’s evocative sound design, the jubilation of this production makes its shining promise of happy ever after seem just about as enchanting as the most famous of Miss Austen’s romances.

Beauty and the Beast is at the Everyman, Cork, until Sunday, January 14th

Mary Leland

Mary Leland is a contributor to The Irish Times specialising in culture