Thursday, 7 December 2017

PANTOMIME REVIEW: Jack and the Beanstalk at the Salisbury Playhouse

Many pantomimes sell themselves on a poster of celebrities from children's TV and the soaps, corny and topical jokes and borrowed or reused sets so it is very refreshing to see a production that sets out to create its own unique feel while remaining consistent with pantomime traditions. Andrew Pollard's script and Ryan McBryde's direction achieve this with Jack and The Beanstalk at Salisbury Playhouse. 

You get a sense that you are going to see a production created with loving care as soon as you enter the auditorium and see the beautiful sunflower covered proscenium arch and large giants eye looking out with clever lighting highlights behind the clouds. The opening prologue by Jemma Geanaus as Fortuna (the fairy character) reinforces the fresh take on the familiar story and her active role in the story with a good rendition of "I need a hero" to defeat the gIant . The not so obvious choice of hero is Jack Trot (played by Sam Harrison) who with easy charm establishes himself as both the love interest and usual silly character.Richard Ede plays his mother Dame Dottie Trot with equal charm and delightfully plays to the audience. 

They soon pair up with an excellent King Crackpot ( JJ Henry) in a loud green check looking like a cross between the crackerjack comedian Peter Glaze and Toad of Toad hall and his daughter Jill (Tanya Shields). This four are joined by Pat the cow (Laura Crowhurst) a talking cow on her hind legs and together create most of the best moments.The Dairy kitchen scene is a wonderful set piece and a fresh look at the traditional slosh scene as the five try to fill the yogurt pots. 

The villain is Nightshade (Steven Serlin) and he is a lively creepy servant of the Giant with mauve hair and goatee beard and a useful collection of gadgets. 

They all come together in a well choreographed (by Nicky Griffiths) Act 1 conclusion based around Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" as Jack prepares to climb the Beanstalk. 

This strong ensemble continue to work together in the second half supported by
young performers as the cloud people in a battle with the robotic servants and the wonderful ten foot giant who moves impressively around the stage. 

Without star names this pantomime works so well because all the elements are carefully knitted together with colourful settings, smart looking lighting, good music choices, well drilled choruses and a cast who work hard together to create a successful fun Christmas pantomime.

Review by Nick Wayne 

Rating: ★★★★

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