The Playhouse at Whitley Bay has brought professional panto back to North Tyneside with a bang and there is no doubting Gareth Oliver (semi finalist in Britain’s Got Talent), who played Simple Simon, has a great future in pantomime in front of him.
From his first appearance Oliver had the audience eating out of the palm of his hand, as he immediately connects with both the adults and children alike.
The story sticks to familiar territory with Jack being forced to fight the Giant after he is tricked in to accepting beans instead of gold for the family cow. When his Mother throws the beans out of the window they turn in to a giant beanstalk enabling him to climb up to the Giants castle. We know that despite the actions of the Giants henchman Fleshcreep (a surprisingly good Damar Martin form TVs Gladiators) good will conquer evil and Jack will get the girl, but it is the fun that happens along the way that makes this show work.
This show does not try to be anything other than a typical family panto that can be enjoyed by the whole family. The lead actors more than make up for any short comings in the sets and costumes as it becomes obvious they are enjoying themselves as much as the audience.
While Hazel Raysons choreography is uninspiring and the dancers appear slightly unsure of how to handle the ends of certain routines, Director, Robert Forknall allows Gareth Oliver and Peter Brad-Leigh (Dame Trott) enough scope to ensure the comedy and adlibs flow easily. Jake Hendriks (Hollyoaks) looked slightly uncomfortable and used an odd range of facial expressions, as Jack, but with Gareth Oliver stealing every scene, he was not given too much of an opportunity to play the leading man.
This show is not meant to compete with the mainstream professional pantomimes but it is perfect for this venue and is one of five pantos New World Productions are producing this year. I predict that Gareth Oliver will rightly be starring in major pantomime productions in the future and I would recommend catching him in Whitley Bay while you can.