By Fanny Charles

Salisbury has had an awful year, no question – you don’t need reminding. What you DO need is a dose of unabashed, gloriously colourful, warm-hearted, hilarious, touching and just plain wonderful pantomime. Oh yes, you do! Believe me!

When Salisbury Playhouse artistic management decided the 2018-19 panto would be Beauty and the Beast, they had no idea of the shocks in store for the city. A story with magic poisons must have looked a bit dodgy for a few wobbly moments – but with a brilliant cast, expert direction by Ryan McBryde, and a terrific script by Andrew Pollard in which every one of the principals has a well-drawn character, this show is just the magic potion that Salisbury needs to end this difficult year and look forward to 2019.

This isn’t the Disney story – instead it’s a tale of a poor sugar merchant, M Marzipan (Ralph Bogard), and his two daughters, wise and virtuous Amorette (Liberty Buckland) and flighty shopaholic Instagrammer Souffle (Nerine Skinner), a sweet-natured sweet-maker, Betty Bonbon (Richard Ede), with a candy-coloured caravan, Cupid (a vairrry French spirit of l’amour, Alex Wadham), a handsome prince (Joseph Black) and a wicked witch called Spite (Helen Colby) who turns our hero into a lumbering beast because he doesn’t want her and has fallen in love with Amorette. Even the swings (Henry Lawes and Ashley Runeckles) have plenty to do!

It’s an age-old story with a simple message – don’t be taken in by external appearances; look beneath the surface at the person not the image.

If we gave stars, we’d give this five!

Photographs by Robert Workman