Jack and the Beanstalk returns to the Nottingham Playhouse in all its usual pantomime glory with dazzling sets, shocking costumes and even more outrageous lines. Dame Daisy, Jack and friends whip up (quite literally) a whole evening of comic frenzy, quicker than you can shout “he’s behind you!”.
In this retelling of the well-loved fairy tale of the same name, Jack and his mother attempt to earn some money to pay their rent by selling their beloved cow, Buttercup. Selling Buttercup to a magical witch in return for some beans angers Jack’s mother, yet by the morning the beanstalks have grown so tall that, by climbing them, Jack is able to reach and slay the terrifying giant in his kingdom. Yet all is not quite so easy: this pantomime is thick with plot twists which slowly and cleverly unravel to reveal that, in the end, all is not as simple as you might think.
Jack and the Beanstalk is always a favourite amongst the pantomime crowds: evil giants, unsuspecting villagers, mouthy mothers and magical enchantresses always bring colour, chaos and creativity, ideal for a childish Christmas. However, there is an extra kind of magic in the air at the Nottingham Playhouse this year. It is Kenneth Alan Taylor’s thirtieth and final year at the Playhouse reprising his yearly role as the pantomime dame, this time taking the form of the exceptionally funny and fabulous Dame Daisy. With spectacular hair pieces, dresses and make-up, Taylor (who in addition both directs and writes the show) literally glitters. One-liners fire out from the stage at an exceptional rate, which is always difficult to maintain on a pantomime’s first night. In fact, part of the outlandish nature of pantomimes is that very air of the unexpected. During the performance ad-libbing takes over at many points, meaning scenes devolve constantly with disruptive and unprepared hilarity, something that normally only happens – if you’re lucky – quite a while into a pantomime’s run.
The rest of the cast – Rebecca Little’s energetic Jack and the acrobatic Tim Frater as Danny, among others – add even more excitement. The array of talent possessed by the cast is impressive; the quality of the musical numbers has the audience up on their feet in an instant. Most notable is John Elkington in his role as resident baddie Slurp, the giant’s servant. Sly and conniving, Slurp is quick to play the prankster, but has comic timing which leaves the adults in stitches. Designer Tim Meacock’s vision is also a bright and bold one, as the Viking-esque Giant Blunderbore, played by Daniel Hoffmann-Gill, towers over the rest of the cast.
Jack and the Beanstalk is a dazzling spectacle and a Christmas cracker of a pantomime.
Jack and the Beanstalk is playing at the Nottingham Playhouse until 18 January. For more information and tickets, please see the Nottingham Playhouse Website.