Writer: Peter Swingler
Director: Steve Davies
Reviewer: John Roberts
Throughout the entire of run of Jack and The Beanstalk, this hard-working cast will have played to the equivalent audience of two nights at the Liverpool Empire, but that doesn’t stop this diminutive delight from hitting high on heart and delivering a mighty fine pantomime that gives the local multi-million pound productions a serious run for its money.
Peter Swingler has written a fast-paced script full of brilliant gags and lots innuendo, which are delivered with aplomb by this engaging, energetic cast of six. Act Two (this is a three-act pantomime due to logistics of set changes in the small studio space) is a comic delight and provides more fun in half an hour than most pantomimes can muster in their whole show.
Taking on the titular role is one-half of the UK’s 2016 Eurovision entrant Joe and Jake. Joe Woolford not only can sing exceptionally well, but he can also act convincingly well too. His love interest, Jill, is played with genuine sweetness by Jade Pritchard and the pair have wonderful chemistry onstage together. In the comic role of Silly Willy, Dan Ellis is a firm crowd favourite with young and old alike – and one will bet it won’t be long before he starts gracing larger stages with bigger pantomime producers. Julie Blagrove is a delicious Fairy Courgette, warm and tender with a hint of northern crispiness, while Kieron Attwood’s criminally camp Fleshcreep balances creepiness and comedy perfectly. Comedian Kevin Dewsbury makes a return to dame duties after his pantomime debut last year. His Dame Trott is fresh and invigorating and his ability to ad-lib and deal with interruptions provide some of the funniest moments in the night and it would be sacrilege not to mention his colourful wardrobe of costumes.
It’s impossible not to be won over, almost instantly, by the bright, candy-coloured set design by Sarah Oxley, which utilises the small studio space perfectly. This is a production that looks like it has leapt right out of a storybook and onto the stage. Lighting Designer Mark Shenton adds more colour to proceedings with his enthusiastically bright lighting design which compliments director Steve Davies’ energetic and well-paced production which see’s the best use of a pantomime cow this reviewer has witnessed in well over 100 pantomimes. Choreographer Rhian Underwood uses the space well and her routines are polished and perfunctory.
Sadly the sound design on the night could be a lot better, a finer balance needs to be found for music tracks, which more than once hindered the cast inaudible – easy enough to fix in the right hands. Having two intervals does seem to be a strange beast in a panto and one would have preferred a more traditional two-act structure, which, with a little bit of creative thinking both on the side of the set designer and director could have been easily resolved and implemented.
For a pantomime that tickles the funny bone, has you cheering and singing along throughout and makes you realise just how good pantomime can be, then Jack and the Beanstalk is just the ticket.
Runs until 6 January 2017 | Image: Mark Carline