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Jack and the Beanstalk (Ipswich, New Wolsey Theatre)

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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Multi-skilled is something which many performers endeavour to achieve. Singing, dancing, falling about (literally) is what you expect from a Christmas show; Ipswich’s annual rock’roll’ pantomime – this year it’s Jack and the Beanstalk – provides not just these elements but a cast which can multi-task while playing an array of instruments with enormous verve and panache.

The performers mingle with the audience as we take our seats. Mark Walters costumes are attractively coloured and stand up to close scrutiny, as do his sets. The actual acting area is flanked by raised platforms where the instruments are located; brass and percussion predominating. Evil henchman Fleshcreep (Sean Kinglsey) is opposed by Shirley Darroch’s Fairy Aubergine, whose wand is a leek and who sports a Suffolk accent. Taking tine out from his drum-kit is Adebayo Bolaji donning the thick-soled boots and massive headpiece of the Giant as well as one end of Bessie, the cow.

In Peter Rowe and Alan Ellis’ script, the Giant has a wife – Gemima (Nicola Bryan) and Jill, our heroine, is the Squire’s daughter. Liz Singleton is a charming heroine, wooed by David Hunter’s dauntless Jack. As well as Squire Snuffbox (Harry Myers), the comic leads are Kenny Davies as Billy (very silly) and Will Kenning as Dame Dolly Durden (queen of tongue-twisters and audience involvement).

Rowe, the New Wolsey’s artistic director, has also staged the show with Rob Salmon. Ben Goddard is the musical director and the energetic choreography is by Maggie Rawlinson. Intervention by a range of furry creatures has become a feature of New Wolsey pantomimes; here we have a farmyard menagerie as Bessie is led off to market to be exchanged for Fleshcreep’s beans, which are then transformed by Fairy Aubergine. The actual beanstalk is an impressive growth with its tip reaching up to space travellers (including Dr Who’s Tardis).


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