Beauty and The Beast at DeMontfort Hall 16th December to 6th January 2018
DeMontfort Hall is continuing its recently revived custom of an annual pantomime with a remarkable production of Beauty and The Beast, not to be confused with Disney’s upcoming live action film of the much loved animated version.
On a very chilly morning we assembled in the hall to meet some of the cast and get a sneak round the stage set. It has to said that the way that an enormous amount of scenery has been packed into the very limited room backstage is ingenious. We were lucky to be given a close up view of one of the spectacular scene changes, all of which happen in full view of the audience without a blackout. Incredibly inventive and effective.
Once we had caught our breath and taken cast pictures on the set we wandered into the Garden Suite where we met up with four cast members for a chat.
David Lonsdale plays Cedric, Belle’s father.
Is he good or bad?
Panto always conforms to goodies and baddies, he said. Belle’s father is a good, very avuncular, granddad type who messes up and causes all sorts of problems which result in Belle being held captive by the Beast.
Have you done many pantomimes?
I’ve done a few but I came to it late as I worked on Heartbeat for many years and we couldn’t do panto. We were too busy. Now I’ve done 8 or 9, I’ve played Dame a couple of times but I much prefer doing Fathers and Barons. Dame is way too much like hard work. It is so physical with all the costume changes.
And talking of Dames, I next spoke to renowned local Dame, Martin Ballard
You work for BBC Radio Leicester, don’t you?
Yes I have been there for 30 years, on an off.
Are you from Leicester?
I am originally from Castle Donnington, so Leicestershire born and bred.
You have done loads of pantomimes here, haven’t you?
Overall I have done 28 pantos, this is my 7th here. I was at Loughborough for 15 years when they didn’t do them in Leicester
Have you always been Dame?
No, I’ve done Dames, comics, barons, but mostly Dames
You enjoy doing the Dame?
Absolutely. This is a lovely show. I haven’t done it for a long time. It’s topical because of the movie coming out. It’s got something for everyone, the humour, the slapstick, much more than the Disney story. A very traditional pantomime.
Is it anything like the Disney version?
No, none of the songs. It wouldn’t be panto if we copied that. Panto is driven by the original fairy story. That’s the way it should be anyway. We are not doing the Disney show with slapstick, we are doing the fairytale.
We saw the scene changes just now.
That’s the wow factor, the lights and music, the transformation in full view. Credit has to be given to DeMontfort Hall for the effort they put in every year for this. It is not a traditional theatre and everything has to be created and put in, the lighting rig and scenery machinery; they have to build a theatre on the stage before the scenery goes in.
Next on my list of people to chat to was Richard McCourt.You are one half of Dick ‘n’ Dom, children’s TV favourites
Just the one half, the other one is in hibernation for the winter.You’ve been doing panto for quite a while
Quite a bit on my own in the early 2000’s and then me and Dom did a couple of years together and this is my third on my own again.Are you still on TV?
Yeah but me and Dom mainly do live tours, we are at Edinburgh next year. We are on the live circuit more than on TV at the moment.What sort of character do you play in panto?
Always this sort, Idle Jack, Wishee Washee, Buttons. This show is weird as it doesn’t have that sort of character like Buttons so I am playing the Dame’s son, Dick, the village idiot.Is this your first time in Leicester?
Yes, first time in panto but I am from Sheffield and had friends in Leicester so I was up and down.
Finally I got to chat with local legend Sam BaileyAre you happy to be back here for your second year running?
Third panto, second one here.When you won X Factor …
Four years ago today!
…. did you ever think it was going to be anything more than a singing career?
I used the experience to open doors and add strings to my bowWas it always an aspiration to get into acting and musicals?
Yes, I always wanted to do it. There are some people who do X Factor and leave it too late. Literally as soon as I came off the show I was ‘I wanna do this, I wanna do that’. Strike while the iron is hot.What was it like doing Chicago? Being on the other side of the bars, so to speak?
Playing Momma Morten was great. I loved it. I can’t do the new tour because I am doing Fat Friends The Musical. I finish here and go straight into Fat Friends. I love this, I love Christmas. My kids can come and see me on Christmas Eve. My daughter is obsessed with Belle and is coming dressed up. But that is what panto is all about, it’s for the kids. I have always wanted to do it and now I have been given the opportunity, and n my home town! I can tuck my kids in bed every night and my eldest, 13, loves theatre so she comes along t see backstage.So, a dream come true?
There will be a full review in the Gazette shortly but, in the meantime, if you want your dreams to come true you can’t do better than getting tickets for Beauty and The Beast at DeMontfort Hall some time between now and January 6th
First published on Western Gazette
First published on Western Gazette