Panto season is well and truly here... oh yes it is! And the curtain has now gone up on Oxfordshire’s biggest and best – the annual celebration of storytelling, music, comedy and bawdy innuendo at the Oxford Playhouse.

This year it’s the turn of Beauty and the Beast – with the fairytale favourite and Disney classic given a thoroughly modern twist.

It stars Roseanna Frascona as the heroine Belle. Roseanna’s role as the beauty trapped in the castle is a change of pace from her previous roles which include parts in Macbeth and the gritty Netflix show Top Boy.

The twin roles of Beast and Prince will be played by Matthew Staite, who played Wilfred Owen in the film The Burying Party.


The most familiar name, though, is the actor playing witch Kardashia’s evil sidekick, Slick Rik – who is theatrical legend Ben Kingsley’s son Edmund. Edmund, a classically-trained actor, is more usually seen on stage with the Royal Shakespeare Company.

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The panto is a highlight of the Beaumont Street theatre’s year and an important money spinner which allows it to continue its more serious work, staging groundbreaking theatre, attracting big productions and supporting grassroots drama, throughout the rest of the year.

The theatre’s director and chief executive Louise Chantal said: “It’s panto time again at the Playhouse and that means another spectacular all-singing, all-dancing family-friendly show made here in Oxford and, most importantly, for Oxford.

“The panto is the best of us: a fun-loving, joyful, gorgeous two-hour escape from the daily horrors of work and election campaigns, where good triumphs over evil and the girl always gets her prince.


“It’s as colourful as Christmas trees and as silly as trifle. It’s all that’s good about Britain, yet is based on stories from all around the world.

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“Here in Oxford we like to do panto a little differently, with all the traditional silliness and set pieces (‘he’s behind you!’) wrapped up in a cracking good story, and characters who always come out alright in the end. Here in Pantoland, you’ll usually find it’s the ladies you can rely on to save the day, the unlikeliest of underdogs come out on top, and even a Beast can learn a lesson or three.”

She added: “This is a show which takes us a year to produce, and is arguably the thing which also keeps us running all year.


“Because the Playhouse, like every other regional theatre, relies on the ticket sales during the five-week panto run to subsidise the rest of the year, we can afford to take risks and put on shows which might not necessarily be everyone’s cup of tea.

“This range of shows means we’re a Playhouse for everyone at some point in the year, whether you want to see the best drama, comedy, ballet or hip-hop musical.

“The income we derive from ice cream sales, sparkly toys and a festive tipple or three also ensures we can pay for education projects and work with young artists to help them gain confidence and experience and in turn, contribute to the future of theatre for us all.”

The panto is at the Oxford Playhouse until January 12. Tickets from