Club Tropicana

Jack and the Beanstalk

2 December 13 words: Ian Douglas
Custard pies? Magic beans? It must be panto time again!
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photo: Martyn Boston

The Playhouse pantomime is as much a part of Nottingham's Christmas as the tree in Slab Square. But this year it's special.  Not only does it mark thirty years of Playhouse pantos, but it is also the last to star Kenneth Alan Taylor as the dame. That's right, after three decades of writing, directing and starring in them; he's decided to hang up his frock. Oh, yes he has! Perhaps that's why it's Jack and the Beanstalk again, the very same fairytale that kicked of this remarkable run back in 1983. So does it live up to the reputation?

Well, lovers of panto certainly won't be disappointed. All the hallmarks are there; slapstick, audience participation, song and dance routines, plenty of chart toppers, and outrageous costumes. One thirteen-year-old described it as 'hilariously funny'.

The cast work incredibly hard. Kenneth Alan Taylor holds court on stage as the panto dame, Dame Daisy. No one could do it better. John Elkington expertly elicits boos as the dastardly Slurp. Rebecca Little, as Jack, can slap her thighs with the best of the principal boys. Lord knows how Daniel Hoffman-Gill mobilised around stage as Giant Blunderbore; he must have been wearing stilts under his Viking-esque outfit. Tim Frater charmed the audience too and dutifully bared his pecs for the custard-pie scene.  

Tim Meacock's set designs lived up to the high standard of previous years, from Jack's cottage to the giant's castle, beautifully coloured and etched with glitter. Among other highlights are dancing bunnies, a panto cow, and even the traditional clown sketch 'busy bee'.

The story was perhaps thinner than in the past. And the villain's role was a tad under-developed, especially as the giant doesn’t come on until Act Two. Does that matter? Well, no, not really. The kids in the seats (by which we mean the young and the young-at-heart) were all laughing their heads off from curtain rise to curtain fall. The audience threw themselves into the chanting, dancing, singing, and clapping with gusto.  

It's said that the pantomime is a big revenue raiser for the Playhouse, enabling the more highbrow stuff after New Year. Bearing in mind that the County Council has been obliged to cut financial aid to the Theatre, that revenue will be needed more than ever. So if you have children or like to recapture the magic of your childhood, why not book tickets for Jack and the Beanstalk? You can support our local arts while having a good laugh.  

Jack and the Beanstalk runs at the Nottingham Playhouse until Saturday 18 January 2014.

Read our interview with Kenneth Alan Taylor in issue 56 of the LeftLion magazine.

Ian Douglas' website