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Jack and the Beanstalk (Canterbury)

This year, the Canterbury Marlowe Theatre’s festive offering is "Jack and The Beanstalk" – and what a tremendous offering it is

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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This Jack and the Beanstalk at the Marlowe Theatre in Canterbury will genuinely have you laughing from start to finish, jiggling in your seats and shouting out until you're hoarse.

Writer-directer Paul Hendy's company Evolution has been staging shows at the Marlowe for ten years now, and once again the erstwhile quiz-show host has surpassed himself, creating a wonderfully fast and funny show. 

It moves extremely fast, with many gags, one-liners, dance routines, songs and the traditional ghost'n'bench joke as well.

Once again, the stand-out was the dame Ben Roddy - his one liners and flirty, jokey bravado just ooze panto fun. Phil Gallagher was hilarious as Billy Trot, not in the slightest over-the-top or annoying like his "Cbeebies" persona Mister Maker; for me, he made the show. Roddy and Gallagher were a great comedy duo and seemed to buzz off each other. 

The panto had some great songs this year, although not as driven by well-known pop numbers as in previous years. There are still some fab songs for young and old alike. Boasting tunes by Miley Cyrus, Bonnie Tyler and David Guetta, the song of the night was "One Day More" from "Les Misérables", which rivalled the West End in grandeur.

The Marlowe pantos are always of the highest calibre, so it's not an insult to say that Jack and the Beanstalk doesn't quite have the same sparkle as some of its predecessors. There were a couple of moments where it lost its way just a little bit and there seemed to be a slight lull towards the end of the show.

Maybe it was the giants … they weren't as great as I had hoped, though still fun – and kids will certainly love them. Their scenes need to be smoothed out a bit, and after another week or two, I'm sure that they'll be as top-notch as the rest of the show.

While there are certain scenes that aren't quite as great as others, the same accusation can't be levelled at the cast, who are all superb. Lloyd Hollett played Dr Hefferflumphenstein and gave the panto baddie a delightfully creepy quality.

Hero Jack was played by Jo Parsons, who looked like a real-life Disney character with his distinguished jaw and charismatic good looks that win the heart of Princess May (a wholesome Trina Hill).

Samantha Womack (best known for playing Ronnie Mitchell in EastEnders – or Mandy in Game On if you're cool), was exceptionally funny, adept at different voices and proved to be a surprisingly good singer as well as being gorgeous.

The best singer of the cast was undoubtedly John Barr, playing King Eric, whose outstanding voice blew the audience away.  It really is a fabulous show and once again, the Marlowe panto is the rival of theatres across the country. 

– Rachel Shaw