Small but perfectly formed theatres
deserve pantomimes to the same scale. Sometimes, though, bijou can be
too clever for its own good. Last year's Little Theatre pantomime was
also written by Killian Donnelly but somehow Dick
Whittington stood up to his treatment than does Jack
and the Beanstalk.
Donnelly doesn't believe in keeping to
the story as most of us know it through other Christmastime stagings.
Our Dame, Molly Coddle (Russel Hicken) takes us straight into the
back story to introduce us to an usually omitted character, her
husband and Jack's Father (Cornelius Garrett).
Jack (Jonathan Broderick) is in shy
pursuit of Jill (Rachel Waring), the niece of one Snotmill
(Benedict Martin) who is a self-proclaimed master of disguise –
and proves it when he woos Molly Coddle as a nasty and
vertically-challenged piece of work.
No self-respecting villain can be
without a henchman. Here it's Rolph (James Lavender), a cross
between one of the nastier characters out of The Sound of
Music and all the pantomime comic policemen you can think
of. Both Lavender and Martin are very funny and engage fully with the
In keeping with some of the
contemporary jokes (a lot of which sailed over the heads of the
yonger members of the audience) she's called MooTube, and has magical
powers. Later on we also meet Rapunzel (Morgan Perrow) who, it
turns out, is a possible rival for Jack's affections.
Stage direction is by Damien Douglas
with input from Donnelly. The musical side – it's pleasant to hear
original numbers well put-over, as Waring and Broderick in particular demonstrate –
is controlled by Ron Sayer. In a small theatre with a stage to
match, there's a limit to the effects you can pull off, but
(scene-shifting pauses apart), the designs of Matt Nunn and Kate
Withers look appropriate.