A TALE as old as time hits the stage in West Oxford this week.

A cast of 38 residents was whittled down from 75 hopefuls in September to take part in Beauty and the Beast.

Best friends Ellie Tullis-Hughes, 12, and Frankie Crombie, 14, both from Oatlands Road, landed themselves with the leading roles.

Their first dress rehearsal gets under way tonight ahead of their opening show on Thursday at West Oxford Community Centre.

Frankie, who is playing the Beast, said: “The whole atmosphere is really good fun, it is really exciting.

“Now it is getting really good because we get to see everyone in their costume and it comes alive.

“I love seeing peoples’ reactions laughing, and the backstage atmosphere.”

Ellie, playing Belle the Beauty, said it was tough to learn all her lines but she practised with friends at Bartholomew School, Eynsham.

She added: “It is really fun and I’m excited for the show.

“I can’t explain what I like about acting, it is fun to be someone for a while and then go back to being you.”

The show is West Oxford Pantomime Association’s third after being formed in 2011 by Botley Road resident Karen Starr.

Last year’s Cinderella was a sell-out and the 500 tickets to this year’s shows are almost sold out.

Ms Starr, 54, also the producer, said: “There is always that worry as to whether the audience will enjoy it and it is not really until I hear the first laughs at the first performance that I can relax.

“But it is coming together and the kids are really enthusiastic, they love it, and the adults love getting dressed up.

“The dress rehearsal will be the first time we have run it from start to finish, so it will be nice to see it all the way through.”

The actors are aged from six to 55, and the play was adapted by local poet and writer Helen Reid.

West Oxford Community Centre manager Keith Birnie said: “They have been in and out painting scenery; it has been a hive of activity.

“I’m looking forward to going to see it as a culmination of all their hard work.

“We’re delighted to be hosting it,. It is a fantastic show of West Oxford community spirit.”

s The performances are on Thursday at 6.30pm, Friday at 7.30pm, and Saturday at 3pm and 7.30pm. The few tickets remaining are available from Eggs Eggsetera, Botley Road. For information, call 01865 241900.