Friday, 2 April 2021

REVIEW: Jack and the Beanstalk at the Congress Theatre in Cwmbran

Although Pantomime these days is traditionally a Christmas event, there have always been Easter outings for some titles and while theatres remain closed this Easter several streamed versions are available. Congress Theatre in Cwmbran, South Wales, offers a seventy-minute Jack and The Beanstalk, and it is a fun well-produced and captured show that is sure to entertain young families.

Tom Whalley is a new name to me in writing pantomime scripts but following his excellent Pantolive production of Cinderella with all its interactivity, I was interested to see his more traditional pantomime script for this welsh production of Jack and the Beanstalk. He again sticks closely to the traditional version of this Pantomime story but peppers it with good and dreadful jokes. However, it misses the live audience and despite some audience reactions edited in you can still sense the challenge for the comic routines without the audience response. Even if we are laughing at home as we frequently are with his scripts the cast feel slightly muted by the absence of real interaction and are left weakly laughing at their own jokes.

However, it is a strong energetic cast lead by a wonderful Dame Trot (Jamie Steen) with a fantastic array of colourful excellent comic costumes. Definitely the best dressed in the show. The tone is set in the Dame’s opening routine which despite the lack of responses is charmingly well delivered with a string of diet and “we were so poor” gags. There is also a good comic milking routine with Jack and a rather humpbacked overweight Daisy after an amusingly rewritten Village People song “in the Diary”. Jack is played by Derek Moran from TV’s Milkshake with plenty of gusto and his best line is “I once dated a girl called Simile; I don’t know what I met-her-for.” The girl of his dreams is of course Jill played by Amy Sullivan with her father King Edward played by Peter Lewis with his rich deep voice.

Fairy Mother Nature is played by Katie Mittel and after a weak Donald Trump gag in her opening routine gets going with a delightful “Somewhere only we know” as the Beanstalk (which looks like Audrey from Little shop of horrors!) grows followed by a very good rewritten duet of “You and me” with Jack. The Evil Fleshcreep is played by Nick Hywell who often speaks directly into the camera in close up to very good effect.

Indeed, the production is well directed by Sammi Broad and edited by Jon Salman, adding magical touches and some good “Batman” style cartoon punches in the fight scene and a “magical escape” from the Cloudland castle. Generally, the sets from Imagine Theatre are attractive in pastel colours without being spectacular although the Giant Blunderbore is a magnificent ten-foot creation when he finally appears. The lighting is consistent and effective by Llwyd Herniman with a clear Broadcast sound by Nathan Long.

Overall, this is a well-produced traditional pantomime suitable for all ages and fun and enjoyable to enjoy in your own home. 

Review by Nick Wayne

Rating: ★★★★

Seat: Online | Price of Ticket: £10
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