LOVE is in the air at Salisbury Playhouse, or should I say ‘l’amour’.

Yes, panto season has begun and this year’s production of Beauty and the Beast has a distinctly original feel to it.

Cupid is desperate to match-make so that he can lose his wings and find a love of his own. He sprinkles his magic dust over the beautiful Amorette and handsome Prince Friedrich but the evil Spite has other ideas for the prince. After casting her own wicked spell and turning the prince into a beast, it looks like Cupid’s plan is completely scuppered…or is it? Oh no, it isn’t!

The Playhouse focuses on good old-fashioned family entertainment rather than big celebrities and elaborate special effects. Written by Andrew Pollard and directed by Ryan McBryde (the pair behind the last three Playhouse pantomimes), the production is packed full of high-energy song and dance routines to keep the audience clapping and singing along all the way through.

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The obligatory panto slapstick humour has some modern touches to appeal to today’s YouTubing, social media generation, meaning there is something for all ages.

Alex Wadham’s narrator Cupid is cuddly and cute, with his French accent and pink sparkly suits, he almost steals the show… but not quite, because also returning for the third year is the fabulous Richard Ede as panto dame Betty Bonbon. Richard clearly knows his Salisbury audience by now and, with a hint of innuendo and a smattering of smut, he gets the balance right and has the audience in stitches until the curtain falls. His rendition of ‘Close to You’ with Ralph Bogard (as Msr Marzipan) and the 'Gordon Ramsay' sketch were both very amusing, earning a huge applause.

Nerine Skinner as Amorette’s image-conscious sister Soufflé with a permanent trout-pout and a thousand followers on Instagram, is also very funny and a real hit with the younger members of the audience.

Liberty Buckland is serene and angelic as the heroine Amorette while Joseph Black makes a loveable beast.

Helen Colby has a touch of the Wicked Witch of the West about her as the evil antagonist Spite drumming up some 'hiss'terical booing from the youngsters.

Credit to musical director Chris Peake and his band who perform a whole bunch of hits including Don’t Stop Believin’, Thriller, Love is in the Air and A Million Dreams.

Costumes are colourful and creative, particularly the beast’s mask. And there’s a clever transformation scene from beast to prince with dazzling special effects.

Full of fun and laughter, it’s a perfect family show for all the family to see this Christmas. Oh yes it is!

* Beauty and the Beast continues at Salisbury Playhouse until January 13. For tickets visit or telephone 01722 320333.

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