Jack and the Beanstalk
Online and in cinemas
Reviewed – 3rd December 2020
“The witty jokes, jolly songs and dazzling costumes all combine to provide a show for the whole family to enjoy”
There’s no denying it’s been a tough year, and the hardships the theatre industry has endured cannot be understated. With so much uncertainty, it was touch and go as to whether we’d be able to enjoy a traditional pantomime this year. A small number of theatres are going to be performing panto to much smaller audiences than they’re used to and some are going online, so we can enjoy a bit of light-hearted entertainment from home this festive season. Filmed over the summer on sets in the writer and director’s own back garden, Jack and the Beanstalk is one such online alternative. Peter Duncan, former Blue Peter presenter, actor and theatre and film maker, presents an hour and a half of the fun, energetic antics we have all come to expect from this uniquely British tradition.
We first see a family at home where a little girl receives a parcel – a Jack and the Beanstalk story book – and we are then transported into the world of the story and the girl’s imagination. This is an engaging introduction and should really captivate the children who are watching from the outset.
The show begins and the Garden Fairy appears in a bold, bright costume. As with live pantos, we are encouraged to interact early on and, in this case, “shout at the screen”. We are introduced to an array of quirky characters including Jack (Sam Ebenezer), Dame Trott (played by Peter Duncan himself), Giant Blunderbore (Yuval Shwartsman), who spends his time terrorising the villagers from above, and his dogsbody Fleshcreepy (Jos Vantyler), amongst other characters. All actors commit well to their roles, are entertaining to watch and supported by an energetic ensemble.
Throughout the story are timely, light-hearted references to the current Coronavirus pandemic including a song about lockdown at the start and plastic screens used for the characters’ romantic embraces at the end of the show.
Costumes (David Morgan) are everything you would expect from a traditional panto, from the over the top dame outfit to the dainty dress worn by the female lead. The design of Giant Blunderbore is particularly effective. We see him towards the end of the show, having only heard his bellowing voice before then.
Jack and the Beanstalk is performed in the traditional panto style audiences will be familiar with. The witty jokes, jolly songs and dazzling costumes all combine to provide a show for the whole family to enjoy. Nothing can beat the feeling of being in a theatre and seeing a live production, but the cast and creative team have done tremendously well in their attempts to replicate this feeling for us – catch it while you can.
Reviewed by Emily K Neal
Jack and the Beanstalk
Online via www.pantoonlne.co.uk and at Everyman Cinemas from 4th December. At Showcase cinemas from 11th December