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Jack and the Beanstalk – Belgrade Theatre, Coventry

Reviewer: Nicole Craft

Writer and Director: Iain Lauchlan

The very fact that a grumpy teenager who would usually rather be playing computer games was so excited about heading back to the Belgrade Theatre for this year’s pantomime is testament to the reputation Iain Lauchlan and Craig Hollingsworth have created over the years. Jack and the Beanstalk is this year’s offering and it is clear from the faces of those waiting in the foyer that this is a yearly highlight for many.

As the curtain goes up, Lauchlan and Hollingsworth quickly resume their familiar banter. Despite the audience veterans at times being able to say their lines for them, they perform as though every word is fresh and with an energy that never seems to cease (even when tested to the max by some very persistent hecklers!). With old jokes, new jokes, topical inclusions and many barrels of laughs between them, the double act feed off one another like they’ve never been away. Lauchlan’s outfits are always a treat but this year they are truly magnificent and stretch the Jack and the Beanstalk theme to a whole other level.

Despite the dazzling duo, well, dazzling, there is another who stands out from the dark depths this year. It’s not often the token baddie of the panto steals the show (or even gets more than a line of mention), but from the minute this year’s villain, Fleshcreep, takes the stage his character does exactly that. A furious flick through the program at the interval reveals actor Andy Hockley’s impressive resume and it’s easy to see why his flawless performance diverts so much of our attention. Managing a perfect balance of charm and menacing, his seemingly endless repertoire of mannerisms entices us in and leaves us begging for more each time he is on stage. Hockley’s rapport with each and every member of the cast shows we have a true professional at work and he is a delight to witness.

No stranger to the Belgrade panto, David Gilbrook slips right back into his usual father figure as King Kevin, Morna Macpherson gives a strong performance as Jack and Rochelle Hollis complements her well providing a sassy and confident Princess Poppy with a great singing voice to boot. Emma Mulkern struggles a little vocally with some of her more powerful numbers, however, her acting strengths and rapport with her fellow cast members allow this to be forgiven. The set design is as glittery as ever, with some very big surprises thrown in in terms of effects, and the production mostly slides together nicely. There are a few miscued effects and some muffed lines – albeit taken with very good humour – but these are easily forgotten as the traditional Belgrade atmosphere shines through.

Unlike many pantomimes around the country, the Belgrade Theatre’s doesn’t rely on the big named celebrity face to sell tickets. Instead, it makes no apologies for lack of perfection, serves up familiar local legends and promises good honest fun. Selling tickets might be a little harder this year with cost-of-living pinching pockets, however, if you have just one treat, make Jack and the Beanstalk it. With groan-worthy gags, tik-tok fame, impressive visual displays and cracking acting, this year’s giant offering will not disappoint.

Runs Until 7 January 2023

The Reviews Hub Score

Full of beans

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The Reviews Hub - Central

The Central team is under the editorship of Selwyn Knight. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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  1. I have been coming for the last 11 years to watch the pantomime with my grandchildren and now there parents come along as well. We love the show wouldn’t miss it for the world. This year we were disappointed that the show hadn’t included the part of the show where the audience have water thrown at them and the song that is sung, IF I WERE NOT IN PANTOMIME A——— I WOULD BE and all the slapstick that goes with it .although we enjoyed the show all of us missed this bit. I hope next year you add it back in .

  2. I went to the Panto today at the belgrade theatre at 1p.m. The show never fails to be a huge hit. Brilliant acting and wonderful sets. I loved Simon (Craig Hollingworth) such a natural. I also loved the baddie he was so humorous. What I love so much about the show is you can put all your stress and worries behind you and enter a truly magical world of fun, song and silliness. Christmas isn’t Christmas without the belgrade panto. We’ll done everyone!!

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