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Jack & the Beanstalk

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars
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Although it’s noisy and eager to please, the Lyric’s first traditional pantomime in thirty years isn’t really traditional at all, aiming to give an urban edginess to a fairy story, and confusing blunderbuss local name checks with true community spirit.

Four writers are credited in Steve Marmion’s production: Richard Bean, Joel Horwood, Morgan Lloyd Malcolm and Che Walker, but beyond a laborious scene in the giant’s marshmallow factory, the story is sloppily told and there’s little sign of anything distinctive in the writing.

Unless you count the troubling information that Jack’s mum, Wendy Windsor, who exchanges British flag fig for a pink shell suit, took part in Adolf Hitler’s Olympic Games in Berlin in 1936. Martyn Ellis’ dame – who is competent, vocally tremendous and much more Christopher Biggins than John Inman – then appears as only the second lady beefeater at the Tower, though nothing is made of the recent discomfiture of the first.

Panto’s partly about gender crossing, but the Spanish bull with udders is going to confuse kids for life. Javier Marzan plays this “special one” with pink teats hanging in his nether regions like an over-endowed circus freak. No wonder Jack’s farewell when he has to sell him hardly registers as a crisis point in the action; love that cow? Pull the udder one.

Jack is played by a white boy, Tom Robertson, who falls in love with a nice black girl, Jill (another great voice from Natalie Best), who’s enslaved by the giant but has a degree from Hammersmith and City college.

The puppet Gog is doomily voiced by Patrick Stewart, and designer Tom Scutt’s beanstalk appears one-dimensionally behind a tin can and is never chopped down to kill the ogre. His henchman, Evelyn Greedly (Angela Wynter) is all mouth and no trousers (well, skin-tights), too.

One nice touch is Sean Kearns’ Irish buffoon getting bashed on the bonce with a frying pan each time he breaks into song. But despite some cheery street dancing by the Lyric’s young ensemble, the show lacks colour and charm and makes you long for proper panto with the old school ties.


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