Children and adults alike know the
story back to front and inside out. The trick for anyone writing a
new pantomime script for a popular, not to say favourite, legend is
to keep the familiar but dust just the right amount of fresh magic
onto it to ensure that attention stays firmly fixed on the action and the
characters. Nicholas Pegg's 13th pantomime for the Queen's Theatre
succeeds in this admirably.
He's helped by Carol Sloman's catchy
score, which is lyrical at just the right moments – the Jack and
Jill duet and the slow-building ensemble which starts with a solo
voice and builds to a quintet and then full chorus – and some
glitteringly imaginative sets and costumes by Mark Walters. The
cast throws itself wholeheartedly into the magical world prefigured
by puppets showing us the back story while a kindly old woman tells us how
the giant came by his ill-gotten gains and at what personal cost to her.
Alison Harding doubles this character
with Giant Thunderskull's hard-done-by wife. Hard-done-by might also
describe the widowed Dame Trott (Simon Jessop in a succession of
fantastic outfits and even more incredible wigs). Alison Thea-Skot
is our hero and pulls off the (for an endangered species) the
difficult double-act of being a thigh-slapping and thoroughly
traditional principal boy in the 21st century.
Fleshcreep is the grasping landlord and
giant's henchman we all love to boo and hiss. James Earl Adair
wears his livid green and black with panache, with a resemblance to
the famous engraving of the Gunpowder Plotters in both make-up and
costume style. Malcolm Ransom has choreographed a good duel with
Jack in the second-act scene set in the giant's kitchen where the
combatants wield outsized kitchen implements. Natasha Moore makes a
charming heroine, a proper match for Jack.