Writers: Phil Lowe and David Bown
Director: Phil Lowe
Reviewer: Ruth Jepson
It’s December, which means it’s time to put the tree up, sip mulled wine, and head to the theatre for the best part of Christmas: The Pantomime!
Jack and the Beanstalk at Harrogate Theatre has been given a modern twist by reimagining the titular hero as a heroine. Jacqueline Trott (Harriett Hare) is still a poor farm girl, living with her mother Dame Trott and sports-obsessed brother Simon (respectively played by Harrogate panto regulars Howard Chadwick and Tim Stedman). When the evil Fleshcreep (George Telfer) tricks Jack into selling Buttercup the Cow for a handful of magic beans; raises the rent and kidnaps Princess Jill (Christina Harris), the Fairy of the Forest (Polly Smith) magics up a huge beanstalk, and Jack and co must head to the Giant’s Castle to save the day.
The show is hilariously funny, with Chadwick and Stedman’s silly one-liners keeping even the adults giggling throughout. Stedman particularly is a masterclass of clowning with his bumbling Simon, although he is able to bring on the aww’s when mourning his missing cow. The whole cast are clearly seasoned professionals, handling the audience interaction and improvising where necessary to keep the laughter coming. The only strange decision is in double casting Fleshcreep and the King, which is played well for laughs at the end, but seems like a way to not pay a second wage otherwise.
Mention must be made of the wonderful stage design by Morgan Brind and Harrogate Theatre Scenic Services. Keep an eye out for the daft signs incorporated into each set piece, and the PPPPPP 3000, which is a masterpiece. And of course, the most important mentions must go to the wonderfully expressive Buttercup the Cow, and the amazing feat of engineering which is the Giant.
Overall, Harrogate Theatre have put on a highly recommend pantomime, great for getting families in the mood for Christmas. They are also including BSL, captioned, audio described and relaxed performances, ensuring full access for all audience needs, which is highly commendable. Even with the male to female switch of Jack and the Beanstalk, the core story remains the same, and the core fun has definitely been retained. Unfortunately though, however loosely it has been adapted to make Jack and Jill BFFs, and recast the fool as the love interest, it is blatantly obvious that the script was previously written for a male Jack. What would have been a refreshing change, therefore, comes across as shoehorned. Isn’t it time to make the girl the hero of her own story – or better yet, accept that children nowadays can accept that sometimes the princess might want a girlfriend instead?
Runs until 20th January 2019 | Image: Karl Andre