Panto! Jack and the Beanstalk
Jack comes to the Harlequin Theatre in Redhill where he climbs a beanstalk, battles a giant and wins the girl. He also has a dance-fight with former Strictly pro James Jordan.
We love panto season here at Muddy: all the craziness, the innuendo and the Brexit jokes. And anyone who’s seen a panto production at the Harlequin Theatre in Redhill will know they have all of this, and more, in droves.
I hadn’t seen Jack and the Beanstalk as panto before but all the ingredients are there – an oversized villain, a brave but sometimes stupid hero, a pretty princess, a loveable cow and magic. Oh, and of course former Strictly Come Dancing darlings Ola and James Jordan – which also meant there was plenty of dancing!
A heavily-pregnant Ola plays the role of the Glitterball Fairy while James is the giant’s sidekick, Fleshcreep. Ola is sweet and solid as the fairy delivering her lines with confidence. But it’s James who surprised me most. He was good. Actually, he was really good! Who knew? The role of a villain suits him, and he played it with a remarkably natural ease nailing the one-liners and hitting exactly the right note of menace.
Jack is played by Aaron Steadman, and the role of Princess Amelia is taken by Lucy Edge – a pair who combined to belt out some brilliant songs. Lucy, in particular, has a hefty set of lungs on her – singing a beautiful rendition of James Arthurs ‘Falling Like The Stars’, among others.
They’re joined by Redhill panto regulars Simon Bashford as Dame Trott, and Neil Wheatley as Jack’s brother Simon – a superb pair who keep things rollicking along at breakneck pace. Michael Garland adds to the hilarity as Princess Amelia’s doddering father, King Crumble.
Like all good pantos, this Jack and the Beanstalk is packed full of ultra-local references. Crawley takes a battering, Brexit, bums and, er, willies, are all thrown into the mix. There are jokes for the adults, sometimes skating fairly close to the edge whilst not quite teetering over, and there’s plenty of madcap mayhem for the littlies including a scene involving waterpistols. It’s the non-scripted jokes that are often the funniest, and that was the case with this lot who ad-libbed brilliantly. Ola’s obvious pregnancy drawing a few jokes.
There’s a bit of dancing – from James and Ola, as well as the rest of the cast – bit it doesn’t dominate the show. We loved the dance-fight between Jack and Fleshcreep – which was clever and funny in equal measure.
The special effects are unusually good with some real eye-poppers, including a convincing beanstalk, a really impressive giant and a cute and convincing Daisy the cow. Special mention must go to the ensemble cast and the team of local kids who proved themselves to be remarkably good dancers.
All in all, Jack and the Beanstalk is a fun and energetic show that the whole family will enjoy – every panto box is pretty well ticked here.
Jack and the Beanstalk is at the Harlequin Theatre in Redhill until Tues 31 Dec. harlequintheatre.co.uk