FamilyFestive 15/16PantomimeReviewSouth East

Jack and the Beanstalk – Theatre Royal, Bury St Edmunds

Writer: Chris Hannon
Director: Karen Simpson
Musical Director: Victoria Calver
Reviewer: Flip Miller


It’s the beginning of the December so ‘technically’ that must mean it is nearly Christmas and there can be only one antidote to the miserable weather outside and that is a visit to The Theatre Royal and this year’s pantomime – Jack and the Beanstalk.

The story revolves around the Trumpington family and their troubles. Tina Trumpington has a son, Jack. They, along with all the villagers, live in fear of the evil Giant in the Clouds. The taxes are due and no means to pay them. So Jack is sent off to sell their only source of income, Daisy the cow. Sadly he is persuaded to sell the cow for a handful of beans. His mother is so angry she throws them into the well and that is where their adventures begin…

The pantomime is cleverly written. Playing with words is very important in this script by Chris Hannon. There are more than a few light bulb moments when you realise the meaning of the names. Duke Box is the Elvis lookalike Lord of the manor (played by Chris Clarkson) who loves to sing. Clarkson gives a very accomplished singing and acting performance. Then there is Sue Chef, played by Nancy Hill, who is Ghastly Gordon’s sidekick – his sous chef if you will.

Mistress of ceremonies is Wendy, played by Leonie Spilsby. Spilsby also doubles as Dottee the Giant’s wife, proving what a versatile actress and singer she is.

As has become tradition, there are loads of references to the local area – Suffering Sicklesmere, a “What’s this?” “A town about 20 miles outside of Bury” referencing Diss and even the chase scene around the auditorium is made to feel like a day at Newmarket races. You are even led to believe that Jack and Tina’s surname is a reference to an area in Cambridge.

In fact, in true pantomime style Tina Trumpington is the flatulent First Lady of Pantomime. James Parkes plays Tina in a very understated style. Parkes performance could do with being even more grotesque and over the top – ‘she’ needs to let rip, so to speak.

Our hero Jack, played by Oliver Mawdsley, is desperately in love with Jill. Mawdsley plays our hapless hero with just the right of apathy and has a beautiful puppy dog look about him, though the slapstick between Parkes, Mawdsley and Hill is decidedly slapdash and could do with tighter timing.

By far the standout performance of the show is Alan Mehdizadeh’s Ghastly Gordon, the Giant’s chef. Unlike his namesake, Mr Ramsey, there is no swearing here and his singing is superb, if sometimes drowned out by the band. The comedy double act between Mehdizadeh and Hill are both sweet and sour – Hill being the perfect foil to Mehdizadeh’s perfect evilness.

A very important part of the show is always the junior dance teams. There is plenty for them to do and they play their characters well.

The finale to Jack and the Beanstalk is a medley of catchy, popular tunes that will leave you humming them on the way home. A perfect way to end the show.

Runs until Sunday 10January 2015 | Image: Keith Mindham


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