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THEATRE REVIEW: Jack and the Beanstalk @ Sunderland Empire

December 20, 2017 3:00 pm

19th December, 2017

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Review by Olivia Gardener


Jack and the Beanstalk is a classic tale. The story is well-known; a boy sells his family’s cow for some magical beans which Jack believes will solve his family’s money problems. The beans then grow and grow until the stalk reaches the sky, providing access to a magical land. Jack then climbs the beanstalk to discover riches, including a goose, which lays golden eggs. However, it was never going to be that easy! The hoard is owned by a giant who has a particular fancy for human flesh. Jack, being our hero, eventually slays the giant, and in turn, saves himself and his mother from poverty. The pantomime itself sticks pretty close to the original story, with the plot and a few characters tweaked only ever so slightly.

Since it is a pantomime, we of course have an elaborate Dame who comes in the form of Jack’s mother, Dame Nellie Trott. She provides laughs for the audience, especially the parents who have brought their children along. However, I do think there could have been slightly more adult humour throughout, since, although it is aimed mainly at children, it did fall a bit flat at points and the jokes became a little bit repetitive. One character which did stand out to me was Fleshcreep (the villain), played by Bill ward. This character was a necessity to the play, as the main villain in the original story is a giant, and it would be difficult to physically capture this on stage. Fleshcreep then took on the role of the giant’s henchman and the giant’s arrival was demonstrated by loud crashing footsteps and a bellowing voice from above. Bill Ward played this character very well and I thoroughly enjoyed watching him on stage.

I also enjoyed the music, which included some original songs but also a lot of chart topping pop songs which were adapted accordingly. Another great feature I loved were the 3D effects. This provided a needed boost to the second half of the performance and required the audience to wear 3D glasses for a section of the second half. I thought this was quite a unique idea and it was the first time I’d seen anything like that incorporated into pantomime. I think this demonstrated how pantomimes in general have adapted to modern day audiences; however there was a sense of melancholy in me, as I feel like going to the theatre is one of the few ways you can escape the screen. Nevertheless, it was clear that the kids in the audience absolutely loved it!

Overall, although it didn’t blow my socks off, Jack and the Beanstalk has everything you would want from a pantomime: a hero who saves the day, a princess in trouble, an old fashioned villain, a Dame in drag and enough of ‘he’s behind you!’ to last you until next year.


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