Jack And The Beanstalk Reviewed

Jack and the Beanstalk.

Written by Iain Lauchlan & Will Brenton.

Director Michael Strassen.

De Montfort Hall, Leicester.

15th Dec - 3rd Jan 2017.

Reviewed 10th Dec 2016

'hugely enjoyable... back with a bang'

Jack and the Beanstalk was originally performed as a pantomime nearly two hundred years ago, and if this version at Leicester's De Montfort Hall is anything to go by, its future is safe for another two hundred.

Jack BeanstalkIt can be hard to strike a balance between engaging kids and pleasing adults but Ian Lauchlan and Will Brenton have managed to put the right words into the mouths of an expert cast and pitched it perfectly. The result is a hugely enjoyable and tuneful 2 ½ hour romp.

Even though last night's press show was only the second time Jack and the Beanstalk had been performed in front of a paying DMH audience, the cast hit the ground running.

Leicester's X Factor winner Sam Bailey is the main draw, for the grown-ups, as the Queen of the Flower Fairies. We know she's a tremendous singer and she also makes an engaging and down to earth Fairy Queen. Impressionist and Britain's Got Talent finalist, Jon Clegg delights as Simple Simon; getting loud, enthusiastic responses from the kids. He's a natural at this sort of thing. Martin Ballard channels his inner Roy Barraclough as Dame Trot. He has to be one of the best panto dames in the business and his LCFC themed costumes are brilliantly ludicrous. Sinead O'Callaghan strikes those traditional, hand on hip/jutting jaw poses as Jack but Simple Simon and Dame Trot carry the bulk of the show and own the stage along with Connor McAllister as baddy Fleshcreep. Mcallister makes one of the best panto villains I've seen. A purple punk wig, leather kilt and an energetic, over the top air of loopy Caledonian menace that frightened a 5 year old I was with... Result!

Unusually for a pantomime, it became quite creepy at times in a Scooby-doo sort of way. The young local dancers, dressed as cockroaches and carrying torches, scuttled up and down the hall in the dark, adding an unexpectedly macabre dimension. An effective idea and well executed. A nod, perhaps, to the darker source material of a modern pantomime?

Basically, Jack and the Beanstalk has it nailed. Great traditional characters with all the well loved panto clichés shot back and forth between cast and audience.  The production is extremely well staged and tightly performed. It should be; after all it's written by children's TV veterans who understand what makes the young tick and directed by Michael Strassen who helmed last year's very successful Snow White.

Panto at the De Montfort Hall is back with a bang and definitely worth a family outing this Christmas.

Richard Perry