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Jack Studio Theatre



Jack Studio Theatre

Reviewed – 14th December 2018


“delivers on festive cheer and wholesome family entertainment”


Upon arrival, the corridor to the theatre is packed with an expectant audience, all of adult size barring one. Nonetheless there is a feeling of festive excitement. It seems no matter how suited up and cynical we become, everybody wants a little bit of magic this time of year, and a Christmas Cinderella show seems just the ticket.

Four of the five cast members begin as puppeteers for paper birds and an infant Ella, whilst Bryan Pilkington plays a benevolent and charming father. We’re introduced to Ella first as a crying bundle in a basket, then as a marionette; a clever bit of prop use sees a pair of empty boots being puppeteered about to portray Ella’s adolescence, and finally we are introduced to Molly Byrne as the fully-grown Ella.

Her father’s death is announced by the arrival of step-siblings played by Aimee Louise Bevan and Joel Black, wearing private school uniforms and punishing scowls. Bryan Pilkington transforms effortlessly on stage from kindly father to evil step-mother as he dons a haughty countenance, house coat and matching snood.

The general plot plays out as we expect, with Ella flung in to the role of lowly servant Cinderella, generally being tormented by her new and nasty family. She of course retains a twinkle in her eye and, whilst playing in the forest, she encounters the prince, as played by Charlie Bateman. Here the two bond over a shared avian passion, and Cinderella impresses with her great knowledge of bird calls rather than an innate delicacy and ladylikeness as the classic fairytale would have it, whilst Bateman’s prince is all limbs and enthusiasm, over the sullen and rebellious heir we have come to expect. Instead of glass slippers we have studded Dr. Martens, and instead of the dreaded panto audience participation, we have a pleasantly awkward chat with the prince, trying out his party banter. Most pleasing of all the production choices, though, is Ella’s stepbrother who, rather than conforming to the two-dimensional spoilt brat trope, shows some character nuance, developing a kinship with Ella and gaining her trust as a confidante. Black plays both nasty and nice equally convincingly, and though he’s let down a little by his singing, he pulls off the part very well.

Whilst it’s near impossible to avoid the syrupy sweetness of the Cinderella fairytale, the slightly bloody ending smacks a little of Roald Dahl’s take on proceedings rather than Walt Disney’s, and we enjoy a fairly ominous minor pastiche of ‘The Birds’ in serving the evil step-mother her just deserts.

Well-timed lighting and sound give the illusion of a much grander set-up than a fifty-seat pub theatre, and on the whole, the production does a lot with a little. There are some ropey vocals, and at times there’s a bit too much acting considering the intimacy of the auditorium, nonetheless, the Jack Studio Theatre delivers on festive cheer and wholesome family entertainment.


Reviewed by Miriam Sallon



Jack Studio Theatre


Last ten shows reviewed at this venue:
The Golden F**king Years | ★★★ | April 2018
Kes | ★★★★★ | May 2018
The Night Alive | ★★★½ | May 2018
Stepping Out | ★★★ | June 2018
Back to Where | ★★★★ | July 2018
The White Rose | ★★★★ | July 2018
Hobson’s Choice | ★★★★ | September 2018
Dracula | ★★★½ | October 2018
Radiant Vermin | ★★★★ | November 2018
Sweet Like Chocolate Boy | ★★★★★ | November 2018


Click here to see more of our latest reviews on thespyinthestalls.com


Stick Man – 3.5 Stars

Stick Man

Leicester Square Theatre

Reviewed – 21st October 2018


“the whole cast consistently kept a sparky energy and played well to the audience”


Stick Man, one of Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler’s many much-loved children stories, is now enjoying a stage adaptation by Freckle Productions, in a show that lifts the charm and appeal off the page and delivers it to families across a sizzling forty five minute romp.

The plot sees the titular Stick Man (Jack Benjamin) taken on a perilous adventure after being swept away from his stick family by a dog (Kate Malyon, also playing everything from a swan to a very aggressive schoolgirl) during a jog in the park; he keeps getting used and abused in different scenarios until he ends up in need of some serious help to be reunited with stick wife and children. Euan Wilson rounds out the cast, chiefly providing music (composed by Benji Bower) on all manner of instruments that provides a gleeful timbre to the action on stage. The interplay between Wilson on the saxophone and Malyon’s swan was particularly enjoyable, although the whole cast consistently kept a sparky energy and played well to the audience.

Stick Man employs a number of everyday objects in its design (Katie Skyes) that allows for the cast and director Mark Kane to let them ooze creativity when used in performance, such as a roll of blue wallpaper wrapped between two cast members acting as a river, or using umbrellas to depict a raging ocean. The results are visually delectable, and keep the audience constantly engaged as to what innovative use of regular paraphernalia will be utilised next.

The style of the show takes a number of cues from pantomime, featuring a chase through the audience, a game of catch with a beach ball, and – yes – even a ‘they’re behind you’ moment. This works wonders to invite the audience into the story, and it is telling that the sections which did not feature any participation are the ones where the audience grew restless, giving the feeling that Stick Man should have embraced a few more opportunities to include the audience.

The source material has some issues if you’re looking closely, such as that the entire journey Stick Man goes on doesn’t see him learn anything or change, and there’s no especially interesting lesson to take from the story. Crucially, however, by and large the children adored it, and were uncontainably engrossed by the show’s end. Parents looking for an alternative to the usual panto this Christmas will find a lot on offer here.

Reviewed by Tom Francis

Photography by Paul Blakemore


Leicester Theatre

Stick Man

Leicester Square Theatre until 6th January


Previously reviewed at this venue:
Murder, She Didn’t Write | ★★★ | February 2018
Sh*t-faced Shakespeare: The Merchant of Venice | ★★★★ | April 2018
Sh*t-faced Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet | ★★★★ | June 2018
Murder She Didn’t Write | ★★★★ | September 2018
Sh*t-faced Showtime: Oliver With a Twist! | ★★★ | September 2018


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