Jack and the Beanstalk, Strode Theatre

HOW do you refresh one of the best-known and oldest of all pantomime stories while still sticking closely to the traditional tale? Matthew Maisey, back once again as the writer and director of Street’s panto at Strode Theatre, has plenty of ace ideas up his sleeve.

For the audience at the first performance, one of the favourites was a clever rap duet, Paradise, between the delightful Fairy Grapevine (Lydia Lakin) and the evil Fleshcreep (Dave Bonser), henchman to the horrible Giant Blunderbuss.

The King (Matt Turner), round and jolly with a weakness for milky puddings, has witty support from the Prime Minister, Lord Crusty (Glynn Webster), who has enough droll asides to keep the adults laughing, while Simple Simon (Matt Turner Jr) keeps the kids laughing with his pratfalls and silliness.

Justin Hodge has an amazing succession of over the top wigs and colourful frocks as Dame Deirdre Trott, and the love interest is the sparky duo of our hero Jack (Toby Turley) and Princess Violet (Niamh Small).

Jo Turley and Flo Rice were a delight as Daisy the Cow, given much more to do than the usual kicking over the bucket and tugging at our heart-strings as foolish Jack parts with her for a bag of beans to the disguised Fleshcreep. She’s quite the hero helping her friends to escape from the giant’s castle.

You’ve probably read plenty of reports about parents objecting to “smutty jokes” in some of the lavish (and expensive) big pantos this year – rest assured, Matthew Maisey’s script has nothing to shock even the most sensitive of maiden aunts – but there is plenty to laugh and boo at.

Along with some good visual and verbal jokes (one of my favourites was the Jack and Jill routine with Fleshcreep) he also has some clever word play – watch out for the IQ-haiku joke, which goes a bit over the kids’ heads but sparked some laughs in the balcony.

As always with Glastonbury and Street Musical Comedy Society, you are guaranteed some great singing and acting and excellent dancing – outstanding sequences were the leaf fairies around the beanstalk and Fleshcreep’s sinister slaves in Cloudland.

It’s a cracking show – handsome principal boy, who sings and dances well, pretty heroine, dotty dame, genuinely funny comics and a villain who all but steals the show. You really should bag these beans – the show runs to New Year’s Day, Monday 1st January.


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