It’s a tale as old as time but, in the hands of Tobacco Factory Theatres and their co-producers New International Encounter and Cambridge Junction, the story of Beauty and the Beast feels nothing less than timeless.

Inspired by the original French fairy tale and devised by the company, this is a show about love and its strengths. A reminder that beauty is never just skin deep. It is played out by a cast of just six and as I read the programme it amuses me that while five of them have character names, the sixth is simply billed as “ensemble/musician”. 

Beauty and the Beast Tobacco Factory

A rich and handsome man is transformed into a beast when cursed by an angry Italian witch. He lives alone in a forgotten castle and his only hope of redemption is finding true love.

Isabella and her family have lost everything. And she doesn’t mind at all, she loves their new life in a tiny cottage on the edge of a forest. She’s the kind one in the family, but, unlike some fairy tale leading ladies, she’s no pushover; she knows her own mind and stands up for herself. I like that about her.

Her sisters are less willing to adapt (there are two of them, quite unattractive, quite reminiscent of another fairy tale altogether). Her father feels hopeless, especially when the last glimmer of hope is snatched away from him.

It’s no surprise when good overcomes evil to provide a happy ever after ending for our protagonists. But before we reach that point there’s some fabulous music, a lot of laughs, and some audience participation - “It’s not a pantomime” one of the cast calls out part way through Act Two, but it sure does feels like one.

I mean that in a good way. While Beauty and the Beast does seem more panto-like than past Tobacco Factory Theatres Christmas shows such as The Light Princess and 101 Dalmatians, it’s definitely not panto in the bold, brash, glitter-tastic style you’ll see in bigger theatres.

It has a simplicity that makes it very comfortable to watch and because it’s performed in the round, in a relatively small space, to a relatively small audience, there’s an intimacy that’s very much a Tobacco Factory thing.

Beauty and the Beast TFT

Beauty and the Beast runs until 14 January and is recommended for anyone aged 5+. There will be a BSL interpreted performance at 7.30pm on Friday 15 December and relaxed performances at 1pm on Wednesday 10 January (schools) and 6pm on Thursday 11 January (families). Activities linked to the show include ‘A Play in a Day’ sessions on Saturday 16 December (11-14 years) and Sunday 17 December (6-10 years) and a pre-show workshop on Saturday 23 December.

For younger children (2+) and their families, Travelling Light’s The Ugly Duckling returns to Tobacco Factory Theatres from 10 December until 14 January. There are morning and afternoon performances throughout the run.


Beauty and the Beast at Tobacco Factory Theatres
Beauty and the Beast at Tobacco Factory Theatres

This re-telling of the French classic fairy tale is brimming with surprises and delights to remind us that beauty – and beastliness – are only skin deep.

Tobacco Factory Theatres
The Tobacco Factory

A popular theatre and café bar in Southville, with a programme of touring and in-house productions, childrens' and music events