Jack And The Beanstalk – New Wolsey Theatre

What was once seen as the young upstart of panto land is now 10 years old. The New Wolsey Theatre’s Rock ‘n’ Roll panto takes traditional panto tales and adds in a group of versatile actor musicians and a smattering of classic rock and pop numbers.

This year it’s the turn of Jack And The Beanstalk to get the treatment. Well to be technically correct it is a revival of their 2003 show, given a makeover with a new set, some new material and some new songs.

It’s all good fun. Dame Dolly Durden and her wayward son Jack are about to be made homless if they can’t come up with the rent. Jack faces a double dilemma in that unless a roaming giant gets the gold that their rent will supply his girlfriend Jill will end up as the giant’s lunch. All set then for plenty of corny jokes, over the top costumes and general tomfoolery.

The cast are obviously having great fun with the material, Will Kenning’s Dame Dolly a delight of over the top slapstick and innuendo. As the good and evil spirits Shirley Darroch’s Fairy Aubergine and Sean Kingsley’s Fleshcreep give the audience plenty to cheer and boo and, in what must be a panto first, we get not a magic wand but a magic leek to guide the good fairy.

Mark Walters’ sparkling new set frames the piece nicely and contains a few surprise elements along the way. Ben Goddard’s musical direction makes full use of the versatile cast, who swap from instrument to instrument with deceptive ease.

So it all sounds and looks good but there is something lacking. While 10 years ago the format looked fresh and innovative, some spark now seems missing. Perhaps it’s a bit like that 20lb turkey that seemed such a good idea for Christmas dinner. After a while you just run out of new and interesting things to do with it. For Jack And The Beanstalk there is a sense we’ve been here before. This time around the musical numbers seem to slow the critical panto pace down. It is always part of the fun to see how numbers are fitted into the plot, but here a couple of numbers seem to have been shoehorned into the script for no apparent purpose.

The show is certainly enjoyable and will send thousands out with a smile on their faces over the length of the run but for this critic at least it’s perhaps time to look beyond just a sparkly new set and come up with something new for Christmas 2011.

Photo: Shirley Darroch (Fairy Aubergine) and David Hunter (Jack) in Jack And The Beanstalk. Photo Mike Kwasniak

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