If you thought that Dame Trott was a mere villager living in a tumbledown cottage with a cow as her single asset – think again. Writer and director Richard Gauntlett – who completes his Norwich hat-trick by playing Dame Petula herself – makes the widow into the proprietor of a circus, currently installed on the fringes of the little town of Norwichvale and on land for which the local squire is demanding rent on behalf of Giant Blunderbore.
Sir Despard Murgatroyd (unfortunately, though Joel Beckett swirls a cloak and twirls a moustache in proper villainous fashion, he refrains from bursting into either of the appropriate Ruddigore numbers) has opposition. This comes in the shape of Fairy Vegetable, thoroughly organic, of course in Ann Bryson’s materialisation. Stephen Uppal is animal-trainer Jack, in love with mayor (David Redgrave)’s daughter Jill (Charlotte Scott) and torn between his four- and two-legged passions. Of the former, it is Nellie the elephant who looms almost larger.
We meet other animals – André Vincent as Billy has a (literal) running joke about a white mouse. The Trott circus troupe includes acrobat Valérie Murzak whose graceful acrobatics deserve all the gasps and applause which they generate and the small children from the Central School of Dancing & Performing Arts are a delightful and very well-drilled chorus of town children. Gauntlett has great fun as the ring-mistress and the 1890s setting and costumes work very well. The only word to describe the actual beanstalk is gi-normous. I never know that jellybeans could be so prolific!