The tree may have been taken down and the baubles packed away for another year but the festivities aren’t over yet. That’s because – like a dog – a pantomime is not just for Christmas and there’s still a week to catch the best one yet at Eastbourne’s Devonshire Park Theatre.

With stellar performances from the cast including panto favourites Tucker as Potty Pierre and Martyn Knight as Dame Dotty, this Eastbourne Theatres rendition of Beauty and the Beast is as spectacular as any West End musical but is right here on our doorstep.

And this year’s panto is a beast of a production. The story is a classic romance where Beauty (Katie Cochrane) meets a shallow Prince – played to dandy perfection by Lewes Roberts (BBC comedy The Tuckers)– who’s turned into a beast with a spell cast by Malevolent, portrayed as truly evil and hilarious in equal measure by the utterly brilliant Carli Norris of EastEnders fame.

Throw in Fairy Formidable (Rebecca Vere), with a rich ‘I shall say this only once’ French accent and Brendan Hooper (who has appeared in Casualty, Julius Caesar, and Blackbeard) as Beauty’s Father Jean Jacques along with a fantastic musical score and you had us all at ‘Oh no you can’t.’

But this is more than a story of good versus evil where Beauty is imprisoned in an enchanted Chateau with a grotesque-looking Beast. The real question is not just will the curse be broken before the last rose petal falls but how?

The answer is with a brilliantly tight script packed with giggles for all the family and just enough room for ad libs and ribbing of ‘Bob’ in Row 2 by Dame Dotty Derriere, whose costumes (by the amazing designer Shelley Claridge) should be in a panto museum for the whole of this year, they’re so OTT but exquisite.

Knight’s Dame and Tucker are an unofficial plate-smashing comedy duo that are pure panto gold. Their scenes have the entire audience belly laughing, while Lewes’ Beast has a tender side and a voice that softens all our hearts, not just Beauty’s. In fact, his vocals were so good I checked the programme to see if there was another actor playing the Beast because the rock star performance was such a contrast to his rosy-cheeked effeminate prince.

The entire cast can sing and it makes the two-hour plus show fly by as they tackle the wonderful musical score that includes everything from Mamma Mia medleys to the iconic Ghostbusters.

The panto is slick, sophisticated, stylish and oh so entertaining. There are even moments – no spoilers here – that make the audience gasp and almost cry. The special effects are magical, the story has depth and sends out a vital message to the younger social-media savvy members of the audience: you have to be beautiful on the inside to be truly beautiful.

Beauty and the Beast may be a tale as old as time, but this is a fresh, vibrant and brilliant pantomime that shouldn’t be missed. It’s a wonderful way to start 2024.

Beauty and the Beast is at Devonshire Park Theatre until Sunday 14 Jan. Tickets from £15.50 for adults, available at or by calling 01323 412000.