Writer/Director: Phil Walker
Reviewer: John Roberts
Jack and the Beanstalk is only the second in-house production for the Charter Theatre following the success of last year’s Sleeping Beauty. The theatre has once again brought comedian Phil Walker back to write, direct and star in this year’s pantomime. If it all sounds a little “write the theme tune, sing the theme tune” then you would be spot on. At a little under three hours long, this is a pantomime that stretches itself a little too thinly.
As pantomimes go, the company can all sing, all dance and – thankfully – all act, in fact, it’s probably one of the strongest pantomime companies this reviewer has seen so far this season. Phil Walker is an engaging Jack – even if at times it’s hard not to shake off the feeling he may be a little too old to be playing the young lead. His jokes and rapport with the audience keep them firmly onside. Charlotte Dalton makes for a genuinely likeable Jill and really scores with her vocals. Marvyn Dickinson finds a nice balance between evil and camp as the Giant’s sidekick, Fleeshcreep, and Linda Nolan is splendid as the forgetful fairy. But this pantomime really belongs to Ian Good’s tremendous dame – friendly, funny and a little bit risqué he really does pull out all the stops.
While the show may have a strong company, sadly the show falls down in other areas – the sound balance is far too loud and constantly feel like you are being bludgeoned by sound, scene changes are sloppy and bring the pace of the production to an energy zapping standstill and the panto standards of The Ghost Bench and 12 Days of Christmas may be present but Walker does himself no favours by playing with the formats to a loose the jokes in the routine but also in the case of 12 Days of Christmas make it far too long and overly complicated.
This is a pantomime that needs some serious trimming and it clearly doesn’t help having your writer and director take on the lead role, no matter how good he is as a performer – there is an overwhelming sense of self-indulgence here, some of the musical choices in the show seem bizarre especially a rather strangely misjudged version of The Time Warp – in fact far too many songs come from Musical Theatre and taken out of context from the show all feel a little too shoehorned.
There are some genuine wow moments, though… The entrances at the top of each act created by The Twins FX bring audible gasps of delight from the audience and the visit by the giant is much welcomed. Jack and the Beanstalk clearly needs work, but it is still, thanks to the company, an enjoyable production to go to this festive season – just make sure you are prepared for the length of the show.
Runs until 5 January 2017 | Image: Michael Porter