People expect tradition in a pantomime – but some subtle twists to the story never come amiss. Writer Andrew Pollard, director Kate Saxon and designer Cleo Petitt have made something intriguingly fresh out of their take on the tale of Jack & the Beanstalk. We’re in a slightly run-down fairground during the 1960s (Afro hairstyles, hot-pants and swishy skirts for the students of the Margaret Howard Theatre College who make up the chorus).
The fairground is run by Frank Furter (Martin Callaghan), a would-be C&W type in his stetson, and Dotty Trott (Terence Frisch) runs the diner in the complex. Then there’s mystic Fortuna with her globe of predictions (Laura Doddington) who has a twin sister called Spatula. Only Spatula works for the evil giant Bonecrunch who demands endless tribute as he looms over the fairground.
His dirty work is carried out by henchman Nightshade (Ben Watson), a white-faced, black-clad villain to make anyone’s flesh creep. Our hero and heroine are Josh Capper as Jack – on crutches after a knee injury, but a lively as well as likeable lad for all that – and Furter’s daughter Jill – a sweet-voiced and pleasantly feisty Nadine Higgin. They duet together very nicely.
There’s a hilarious cod ballet sequence for Frisch and Watson in the second act. The slush scene doesn’t fare quite as well as the actual appearance of the giant – a huge rod puppet with a clown’s head straight out of commedia dell’arte. This is manipulated by Martin Doyle and Alan Pearson, who also are fleet-footed as Buttercup, the cow who has lost her moo and really, really hates being milked.