FamilyFestiveFestive 18/19PantomimeReviewSouth East

Jack and the Beanstalk – Queens Theatre, Hornchurch

Writer: Andrew Pollard

Music: Gemma Hawkins

Director: Martin Berry

Reviewer: Liz Stagg

Jack, a lowly worker at Frank Furter’s Fun Fair, has dreams of a better life. The fair owner (Furter) is under pressure from the giant above who has eaten and frightened customers away. With the Giant’s demands becoming harder and harder to bear, a hero has to come forward and make a stand against the tyrannical Giant and his wicked assistant ‘Hurricane’. Jack’s mother runs the ice cream parlour within the fair and is also struggling to make ends meet. The only way they can improve their impoverished situation is to milk their cow, Pat, and entice customers into the fair for her wonderful ice cream. Pat, however, has other ideas, mainly involving turnips.

A new twist on the classic Jack and the Beanstalk story, this pantomime incorporates singing, rap, dance, boos, hisses and cheers. Director Martin Berry and his team have brought a magical story to life with many recognisable tunes and classic jokes. Good triumphs over evil and the hero saves the day with the help of his friends and lots of help from the audience.

The cast are well suited to their roles and all are multitalented, singing, playing instruments and dancing at the same time. Most impressive is how each member of the cast is able to swap instruments as the action requires. The jokes are funny and suitable for both young and old. There are many hilarious moments, some of which appear to be planned, some of which do not! There are times where things clearly don’t go to plan, but the quality of the actors involved mean that they cash in on these interruptions and incorporate them into the show, making it funnier than perhaps it was intended to be.

Jack’s mother the Pantomime Dame, Dotty, (John Barr) is excellently cast. Barr is funny, innocently rude and endearing. This character is brilliantly complemented by a ‘Boycie’-come-Elvis character, Frank Furter, played by Richard Emerson. Emerson is fantastic in the role, with a heavy Essex accent and a permanent Elvis stance. The chemistry between Barr and Emerson is hilarious.

Whilst Elizabeth Rowe (Jill Furter) and James William-Pattison (Jack Trott) have less powerful voices, sometimes being overpowered by their counterparts, they are well cast as the younger, quieter and perhaps downtrodden characters of the show. Claire Greenway plays the Cow, Pat and is extremely comical rapping and singing about her favourite vegetable to well-known 90’s tunes. Sheldon Greenland is a believable Giant with the help of some excellent puppetry. This scene particularly menacing for the youngest of the audience.

The scenery is bright and sparkly as to be expected with a pantomime. From fairground with rides and stalls to the dairy and then the clouds of the castle. The beanstalk magically appears from within the set for Jack to climb centre stage. The lighting is well done, with illuminating rides, and mirror balls to create atmosphere. Costumes are glittery and spectacular, especially the Dame’s many changes.

A thoroughly enjoyable performance not to be missed, and there is sure to be something for everyone.

Runs until 6 January 2019 | Mark Sepple

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