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The beautiful village of Tattenhall in Cheshire

TADS 20th Anniversary Production of Beauty and the Beast

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Beauty and the Beast!
Beautiful Belle !
Jacques and Gustave
Madame Fifi and Alphonse
A riot in the salon !
Belladonna and Flora !


On the face of it, it's just a group of friends getting together twice a year to act, sing and dance. On closer inspection, you start to discover a well-oiled machine behind each performance, expertly managed by a dynamic and visionary leader in Alison Pritchard. It is the broad smiles and constant laughter that strike you the most when you come into contact with this happy group from whichever side of the stage you look.

Since its reincarnation exactly 20 years ago, Tattenhall Amateur Dramatic Society has provided regular live theatre for its rural community throughout the year, development opportunities for young people in performance, directing, sound and lighting and thousands of pounds in charitable donations to local charities.

Beauty & the Beast — panto style — was heralded as its most 'ambitious and inclusive' performance ever and it did not disappoint. Demand for tickets for the shows in January was so strong that an additional Saturday morning performance was added at the last minute. With over 200 members, it was no surprise to see a cast list of over 80 (60 of which were under 16), a live band and a support crew of over 20. The Barbour Institute village hall may not be everyone's idea of a great performing venue, but it was recently the location for filming of the TV series 'Home Fires' and most importantly it allows the local community to experience live theatre in a familiar setting.

Don't be fooled into thinking however, that this performance was anything but professional. Hannah Bennett as a perfect Belle, sang and danced her way through the Fearsome Forest, resolutely standing up to the likeable Beast (Steve Williams) who masterfully played with the audience's emotions as he transformed into the elegant Prince — expertly performed by Greg James, who was also Co-Director. The romantic scenes were finely broken up by the brash confidence of Gustave (Matt Lee) and the bearded Dave Marshall as panto Dame leading the line with a perfect mix of scripted comedy and hilarious ad-libbing. Catherine Bryant as the evil Belladonna and Phil Rouse as Belle's father interacted with the audience superbly, whilst Dave Gardiner and Michele Payne Gill as Beauty Parlour assistants raised the roof with their attempts to improve the looks of the Ugly Sisters (Eileen Reisin & Julia Bona). The choice of Motown classics perfectly complemented the clever script, with particularly strong vocal performances from Aisling Swift and Kelly Stevens as Jacques and Flora the Fairy.

This theatre group in the heart of the Cheshire countryside proves that in these days of ever-stronger digital media, there remains a place for live performance where everybody has the chance to shine and smile. Plenty to look forward to then for another 20 years.

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