A tale as old as time is set to delight audiences in Aberdeen.
After years of working for Aberdeen Arts Centre as an actor, Rodney Matthew faced the challenge of bringing one of the most loved fairy tales, Beauty and the Beast, to life as a panto.
Rodney said: “I was invited to write the script which would take the best and most successful points from our last year’s production of Snow White and bring them forward … and also write a script that would be of interest to the local theatre.”
Rodney also directs their new adaptation of Beauty and the Beast. And even thought he would consider sitting in the director’s chair again, he is certain directing will never replace acting for him.
He explained: “Sometimes, the involvement of the director will end on the opening night and they will go on to do something else.
“But it would be very difficult for me to walk away from a production like that.”
The director especially liked the recent Disney adaptation starring Emma Watson because it, “broadened the whole story and gave us a great baddie in Gaston (hunter) which did not exist before.”
Rodney said: “We cannot do what Disney can do in the theatre but that is what we very much try to concentrate on in this production – the things you can do on stage but cannot do in film. I think we can concentrate more on romance because it is happening right in front of you.
“Also, in the film, you can see the costumes through the lens of the camera but we have got wonderful design department and they created wonderful costumes for the beast’s household.”
Rodney thinks Beauty and the Beast is one of the most romantic pantomimes because it has a very wholesome story which is all about “the triumph of love over the badness in the world”.
He said: “In order to save her household and the day, Belle has to overcome her fear and she eventually sees beyond his beastliness.”
Rodney thinks there are many different ways of telling the wonderful story.
He said: “When I was asked to take on the writing, I was determined to find another way, a new and unexpected way.”
The director did not want to spoil the surprise but hinted audience members will be able to hear songs they may not expect to hear. He added: “There are many laughs where you may not expect to find them.”
But Rodney thinks the best part of the show will be the transformation of the beast.
He said: “We tried to make it in a way that special effects could not make happen.”
Five Aberdeen Academy of Performing Arts students, who are set to play the household, are going to be part of the show’s song and dance numbers. In addition, six professional actors will return to Aberdeen to star in this production of Beauty and the Beast.
Rodney said: “This time of year, it can be a homecoming time for a lot of Scots and one of the things people do when they go home to see their families is that they always book the panto. It is a great way of getting the family together.
“In the last couple of years, we tried to make panto a time for actors to come back to the city and allow them to do their job here. We put a big effort on making this a homecoming for both the audience and the Aberdonian talent too.”
Castlegate Arts and Aberdeen Arts Centre will be the venue for the show.
Beauty and the Beast runs from next Saturday till December 31. Performance times vary.