There is a song in this show - “Not At All What We Expected” - and this production certainly delivered the unexpected. The audience may have anticipated the familiar telling based on the French novel or, perhaps, Disney’s cartoon version.

Instead they are treated to Anna Ledwich and Richard Taylor’s radical re-telling of this classic tale, set within the framing device of wartime evacuee children being sent from Blitz-ridden London to the unfamiliar surroundings of the Sussex country side. Their experiences echo aspects of the original story as they act as narrators and a Greek chorus commenting on the action.

Not only does it work but it provides a magnificent evening of pure theatrical magic. There can be no better way of heading into the festive season.

Gone is Beauty’s usual saccharine sweetness. Here she is a down to earth creature who loves to grow vegetables & flowers and is happiest in dungarees. On press night she was played by Mia Cunningham-Stockdale who displayed feistiness with honest charm.

Hal Darling plays the Beast from within the confines of a huge framework that is all prehistoric animal He is splendid in the transition from ferocity to gentleness.

Every year one leaves the theatre thinking that Dale Rooks, Director, and her creative team have reached perfection only to return to find they have surpassed themselves. The production is full of clever and witty invention. Disney used talking furniture and utensils but here talking animals portray the servants.

A huge cast fill the stage with disciplined performances and exuberant choreography. All deserve congratulations but special mention must be made of George Bailey, Beauty’s father; Jennifer Goodier, his long suffering horse; Thomas Lunn, Daniel Kitt and Freddie Dempster a trio of delightful animals whilst Crispin Glancy has great fun as Kiki, a camp cockatoo.