Jack and the Beanstalk (Sheringham, Little Theatre)
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 audience.
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.