Yay! Panto is back and what better show to get us in the Yuletide mood than the all-around family favourite ‘Jack and the Beanstalk’. Television star Louie Spence, who I think is just fabulous darling, headlines as The Spirit of the Beans and does not disappoint with his pirouettes and flamboyance on the stage.
The show starts with down-and-out, but eternally optimistic Jack, played by Zack Guest, and his fun poking brother Silly Billy, played by Samuel Parker, navigating the hardships of the poverty line. Mean old Fleshcreep, played by the awesome Danny Lane, throws PG-rated insults at the audience and Swindon “Numpties! Mingers! Ya Swindon idiots!” The grown-ups chuckle ruefully when he declares "We’re all in this together - except for you, who’s in it more", finishing a sentence we’ve heard in Ministerial interviews for nearly two years now.
Would I like to see a Fleshcreep origin spin-off? Oh yes, I would.
Onwards into the story and poor Jack is made to sell his trusty cow, ’Daisy’ by his matronly mother, played by Matt Rixon, so she can pay rent to the mean ole Giant. It’s a sad moment when poor Daisy is sold for some gold coins only to find out that he was duped by evil Fleshcreep and instead of ten gold coins in the bag, he was given beans!! Stand by for the massive growing Beanstalk and lots of singing.
Some of the best songs I enjoyed were the renditions of Blinding Lights, Girls Just Want to Have Fun and Black Magic. Millie O'Connell, who plays Queen Fussybutt, stole the show for me with her energy and comedic timing. I was impressed with how the production created a link between the tradition of the original story and modernised it with the social relevance of popular chart hits.
There was great interaction with the audience and at one point we all got squirted with a water gun, I must admit I was glad to be at the back for that.
When the beanstalk finally appears, Jack dutifully climbs it to retrieve the golden eggs and vanquish the giant and of course get permission to marry his sweetheart, Jill. I did wonder what the giant was going to look like and have to say it was a puppeteering masterpiece, and he truly was gigantic if not a little bit scary.
The all-singing, all-dancing cast were everything I was hoping for, I would say it’s one for kids and theatre lovers alike. I was pleasantly surprised to see people getting into the show from their chairs, and I mean going for it.
I’m talking singing along, standing up and dancing, waving oversized foam hands around in the air. I bumped into one fan in the loos during the interval and she was teary due to being so happy to be back watching theatre again. It did bring home just how much Covid has impacted people and the pure joy that theatre brings fans.
Much to my delight, the production finished with more well-known songs and the crowd were loving it.
When it comes to this family-friendly panto, there’s not much to ponder if you’ve got little ones to entertain. Fun and silly, a visit to The Wyvern’s Jack and the Beanstalk production is a no-brainer.
Jack and the Beanstalk is on now at Swindon Wyvern Theatre: Sat 4 Dec 2021 – Sun 2 Jan 2022
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