Ben Thornton as Phillipe, Jacob Kohli as Santon and Sam Rabone as Madame Fillop. Pictures: Pamela Raith.

Beauty and the Beast

Lichfield Garrick


It’s the battle of the fairies at Lichfield Garrick with Natalie Pilkington as Cupid as the goody, batting for the Prince turned Beast, and Sarah Annakin as Nightshade, who is working hard to kill the old prince off in a sort of death by flowers, making her a deadly Nightshade . . . ok, please yourself.

It all sort of starts when Prince Henri, played by Melad Hamidi is on the hunt for a bride and old Nightshade turns up and is rejected as being . . . too ugly. Being a bit picky there, Prince, methinks, you could have done a lot worse, but there you go, and, word of advice, never tell a fairy from the dark side she is ugly, unless you fancy a face like a Picasso painting and dearly want a set of horns, and perhaps have a hankering to see what its like to be dead.

The advice was too late so for Prince read Beast whose life will last just as long as the petals on a magical rose – unless he can find true love and a girl who says “I love you”.

This is panto, so we don’t really want to end with a dead prince, bit of a downer for the journey home, so enter Belle in the shape of Kat Chatterton, who sees beyond what people look like to see what they are really like, so you don’t need to be Hercules Poirot to see where that is heading, but there is a whole panto to enjoy before we get there.


Kat Chatterton as Belle with the ensembles in support

Belle’s mother is Madame Fillop – this time around – with the return of local lad Sam Rabone donning ever more outlandish danish frocks once again in his eighth panto at The Garrick.

He has the dame gig off to a tee, never camp or sleazy, always a bloke in a frock and never drifting into areas which would have maiden aunts clutching for the smelling salts or bewildered children asking why everyone is laughing. After all, panto is a show for children or all ages – the first experience of theatre for many, so make it count.

Madame’s son is Phillipe, which explains why the family name is Fillop . . . just say it out loud, Phillipe Fillop . . . OK?

Ben Thornton, as Phillipe, is another returnee after three years at the Garrick up to 2018 and brings a sense of fun as soon as he comes on stage.  


So now who's ugly, beastie boy? Melad Hamidi as the spellbound Prince Henri.

Thornton and Rabone work well together as a double act, with jokes old and, well, older, panto being a sort of old jokes home, but there were some new ones that sneaked in there as well along with the one liners destined more for groans rather than belly laughs – in short traditional panto fare, right down to the slapstick routine.

And what a routine. It involves an ice cream making machine which leaves the floor positively dangerous and, you suspect, the many slips and falls are spontaneous rather than rehearsed. It is very funny – don’t we love a bit of slapstick, the more painful the better - and you suspect the pair of them will have enough bruises to remember this show for a long time come the end of the run. It’s definitely not one to try at home.

Adding a little hot hunk, little being the operative word here, is Danton, played by Jacob Kohli, a man who attracts women like . . . sorry, who would like to attract women. He is a self-centred egotist who claims he is the most handsome man in the village – it is a very small village though, and he is yet to find a seconder. 


Good fairy Cupid in the shape of Natalie Pilkington

He joins Rabone and Thornton to make it a comedy threesome at times – along with some random bloke in the audience called Steve, who has now made a mental note to avoid booking seats in the front row of pantomimes.

Around them we have a hard working ensemble of six who have their work cut out with costume changes from villagers to wolves, then animated teapot, sugar basin, clock, candlestick, lampshade, chest of drawers and we even get a naked statue, apart from a fig leaf and green undercarriage – he really should see if there is a cream available for that, there’s a Boots just round the corner.

Its all good fun as our comedy trio are captured by wolves and escape . . . slowly while Belle stands up to the cantankerous beast and our good and bad fairies battle it out, with some familiar songs, snappy dance routines (choreographer Kayleigh Dettmer) and plenty of fun.


Sarah Annakin as the ever so pretty Nightshade (just to be on the safe side)

Morgan Large has produced a colourful set while Barry Smith’s lighting adds plenty of interest. Sound  from Adam Hutton was well balanced although dialogue and words in songs were lost at times up in the gods.

A mention too for some excellent costumes from Large as well as those from Ella Haines along with dame costumes from Michael J Batchelor.

Music came from a musical trio under musical director Tom Arnold, who sounded much bigger than their number while on Press night the panto had an excellent BSL interpreter who managed the difficult task of being both easily visible for those who needed him and unobtrusive for those that didn’t.

The result is a traditional, family panto for the children in all of us to enjoy. It is the first Garrick production by Daniel Buckroyd since he took over as Artistic Director last year and he keeps things moving at a cracking pace to make for an enjoyable evening, oh yes it was! So the beast will need to be saved to 07-01-24.

Roger Clarke


The production follows a tradition that goes back 700 years with the good fairy appearing from stage right, the bad fairy from stage left. This dates back to the religious Mediaeval Mystery Plays of the 1300s where the angels would always enter from stage right while Lucifer or his like would appear from stage left, a simple device to distinguish good and bad which an illiterate 1300’s audience could understand - to their left was heaven while to their right was Hell. 

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