Theatre stage of Jack and the Beanstalk

Jack and the Beanstalk
Worcester Rep @ Swan Theatre, Worcester – 9th December 2023

Jack and the Beanstalk runs from Monday 4th December 2023 to Sunday 7th January 2024
at The Swan Theatre, Worcester, tickets available online.

Billed as the pantomime we have bean waiting for, the pulses were certainly racing in anticipation and, of course, len -over –til the fat lady sings, albeit as a man dressed in drag. It is now officially panto season folks! Oh, yes it is…

Even before the show, the young lady dancing with a multi-coloured light-sabre, singing along to “Last Christmas,” was in no doubt as to why she was at the Swan Theatre.

The Worcester Rep Company fully understood the horizon of expectation when presenting a pantomime. Accordingly, they did not shirk their collective responsibilities. Aided and abetted in the round by characters – and live musicians – designed to elicit responses from an audience who knew why they were there…

Across two hours a carnival of colourful characters was paraded across the stage to the utter joy of the young people in the audience. Silly Billy lived up to his namesake effortlessly. The mother was portrayed with consummate professionalism and was truly Dotty. Jack and Jill turned up with a hell of a lot more than “vinegar and brown paper”. Fleshcreep took the role of the pantomime villain seriously – being bad in a good way. Special mention goes to the exemplary actor who played the back end of a pantomime cow – Buttercup – for two hours!

For two hours against a spurious story-line we were invited to clap along to familiar rhythms. Shout out the names of characters as they stepped out on to the stage once more. Yell out that he/she was behind you. Laugh at subtle innuendos, poor puns, jokes that most Dads would shy away from, prat falls that went down slower than a premier league striker and snigger at songs that belonged in the music hall of fame. For the young people in the theatre the spontaneous laughter was triggered as if the comedy genre had been reinvented. Joyous.

The 11 members of one family sat in front of me certainly knew their roles and responded accordingly to every invite on stage.

Despite being kicked in the back and having a sugary drink tipped down my leg, I couldn’t help being caught up in the atmosphere. An uplifting atmosphere that must have kick-started the festive season for so many in the theatre. Indeed, a sold-out theatre…

Talking of sell-outs, even Liz Truss gained a mention in the performance, as this is pantomime after all.

Ignoring the budget, the anthemic music was a fundamental part of the panto. Indeed, the three musicians in the pit were an integral part of the performance. Even becoming the focus of several jokes themselves throughout the show: “a genuine shame the drummer can’t count!” The inclusion of familiar anthems – such as “Reach for the Stars”, “Putting on the Ritz”, “It’s a Kind of Magic” – ensured everyone knew the words, not that we matched the singing on stage.

Respectfully, the lady next to me, who remembered a time when there were only 3 TV stations, chuckled constantly, clapped continuously, cheered courageously and clearly enjoyed herself!

Pantomimes have evolved since I watched Norman Wisdom perform in my first Xmas panto, back when there were only 3 TV stations. The Beanstalk was an impressive prop that drew gasps from young mouths. The final scene when the romance was concluded suggested that even if Ferrero Rocher designed sets they would pale into insignificance to this study in bling. For the final scene and the final costume change the audience allowed a hushed awe to descend, briefly.

Blimey, for two hours, we enjoyed pneumatic breasts, heavy make-up, wrinkled stockings and this was just the men! We even had a dog pea all over the audience. The smiles of the dance troupe lit up the stage like the neighbour’s Christmas lights you admire each evening. Consequently, it’s a challenge to know how to conclude my far from worthy review. When in truth, “it’s behind you!”

The young person behind me, just as she stood up to leave, summed up the spectacle succinctly…“Mum, that was just so much fun!” Oh, yes it was!

By: The Swilgate Grinch

Ps If you do attend the show and I urge you to do so, please take your rubbish with you at the end because what the volunteers had to pick-up in some rows was a little unfair – The Swilgate Grinch

PPs Have a Merry Christmas EVERONE!

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