Panto review: Jack And The Beanstalk, Stratford

By Giles Broadbent on December 26, 2012 6:02 PM |


Jack And The Beanstalk
Theatre Royal Stratford East

Julia Gregory enjoys a fun-filled family show, which appeals to adults and children alike

From the moment Gemma Salter gets everyone involved in a singalong before the curtain goes up you know you are in for a fun filled show.

And the audience has plenty of opportunity to let off steam booing and hissing at a succession of villains - the hapless bogus police Biz (Oliver Taheri) and Boz, (Jack Shalloo), the heartless landlord Mr Fleece (Windson Liong) and, of cours,e the ogre who enjoys eating children baked up in a tasty steak and kiddie pie.

As traditional as Christmas pudding, this home-made panto is served up with all the trimmings, a sprinkling of corny jokes, villains, a dame and an audience song, complete with song sheet.

Stratford has a tradition of writing its own show, this year's show is by Paul Sirett, with music and lyrics by Wayne Nunes and Perry Melius.

Jack, (a nimble footed Jorell Coiffic-Kamall) lives with his mum, the irrepressible Dame Trott (panto regular Michael Bertenshaw) but money is short, the landlord unsympathetic and the couple need a miracle to avert eviction.

So when the gullible Jack and his invisible friend Dizzy (Vlach Ashton) meets Biz and Boz as he takes the family cow to market he accepts an offer which seems too good to be true, but certainly does not impress the Dame when he hands over a few bean seeds he is given in payment.

The stage is magically transformed as a beanstalk grows overnight, taking Jack to the ogre's territory. Hats off to designers Jenny Tiramani and Harriet Barsby for an imaginative set and colourful costumes.

The giant ogre, of which we glimpse only part of his body, is extremely impressive.

On the night I saw the show one of the ogre's captives, the songstress Harpo, was played by Allyson Ava-Brown, whose stunning voice was used to good effect.

Other captives included Henrietta (Shelley Williams), the bird which lays golden eggs under sufferance and the long-suffering Mrs Porridge (Susan Lawson-Reynolds) who has to keep the ogre's appetite for steak and kiddie pie satisfied.

The show has gags aplenty and lots of opportunity for audience participation, making it a fun treat for families and colleagues alike.

However despite being a stone's throw from the Olympic stadium there was no mention of the extravaganza which happened in the theatre's back yard just a few months ago, which seemed like a missed opportunity. Mind you Hackney Empire's panto, in another host borough, had just a passing reference to the sporting show.

There are topical references to a certain best-selling trio of novels as Mrs Trott styles herself as author of bodice rippers, with a few knowing looks to the audience. Her outfits are not as garish and outlandish as some dames, but she is entertaining in the best panto fashion.

And this is a fun and funny show, with the audience playing its part along with the cast who seemed to be having a thoroughly good time.

Jack and the Beanstalk, Theatre Royal Stratford East, runs until Saturday January 19, box office 020 8534 0310,


Carole Barnes said:

I took my disabled daughter to see Jack & the beanstalk at Stratford to a Saturday matinee and we sat in the front row of the circle.

There were so many bangs, crashes, lightening, screaming and never ending shouting that she spent most of it hovering under my coat.
We didnt think much of it was funny and a lot of the children weren't reacting. There were some jokes which didn't get a lot of reaction from the audience, especially the children.

I think the children at the front of the stalls were more into it because the characters mingled with them more.
I was glad when it finished.

By contrast we had also been to see Cinderella at the Kenneth More theatre in Ilford and that was enjoyable and fun. It was lighthearted and we laughed a lot. We were up on our feet singing the "Music man" which we knew and came out, having had an enjoyable evening.