York Theatre Royal presents: Jack and the Beanstalk

Venue: York Theatre Royal
Running until: 29 January
Director: Berwick Kaler and Damien Cruden
Audio Described Performances: 8 January, 20 January, 22 January
BSL Signed Performances: 13 January, 15 January
Captioned Performance: 22 January

The hap-hazard nature of a pantomime, can leave some productions looking unprofessional, however the ease and hilarity shown in this one, puts it a cut above the rest.

As our introduction into the world of the York Theatre Royal pantomime, it is clear that we were stepping into something of an institution. Mrs Nut (Berwick Kaler), the pantomime dame, has been writing, directing and starring in them for over 30 years, Nobby Nut (Martin Barrass), celebrates his 25th York anniversary, and many other cast members are definite veterans of the gilded stage. It is clear that the audience are incredibly receptive and hold great esteem towards the actors, as they watch their children enchanted by the same team as they were many moons ago. It is this sense of comradeship that gives the pantomime its sparkle and heightens the family atmosphere.

The artistic design of the production must be congratulated for playing a crucial part in giving it its essential flare. The use of – admittedly flimsy at times – wooden set constructions allowed the stage to take on innumerable settings, and the growth of the inflatable beanstalk was particularly spectacular, and can only be described as spell binding for all members of the audience. The addition of contemporary song and dance numbers; Glee’s rendition of “Don’t stop believing” being an embarrassing favourite, brought the production very much into the present day, as did the parodies of Lady Gaga and Cheryl Cole.

The cast were all brilliant, throwing themselves into whatever situation, or tank of water, to entertain the audience. Deviances from the script and asides, made it clear that the actors on stage were enjoying themselves and exhibited their natural sense of comic timing, thus reflecting on us. David Leonard played the villain Nastidramas, and succeeded in pulling off multiple hip-shake and evil laughs in lycra pants. Sian Howard is reincarnated to humorous effect throughout the show, as Lady Agnes, The Madwoman of Acomb, and Martian Supreme. Suzy Cooper and A J Powell return to our stage as the happy lovers Jack and Jill.

The entire social demographic of York was provided with quick-witted quips and an evening of simple laughter in Jack and the Beanstalk, thereby heralding it as an enormous success. Jack and the Beanstalk acknowledges its potential, and in no way tries to overreach itself. Colloquialisms, glitter, and an innumerable amount of large animals, keep it rooted in the highly successful and unpretentious traditions of pantomime. All of the expected facets of such a production were present, yet the encouragement of “he’s behind you!” and other such old favourites were delivered with a due sense of the triviality and clichéd nature that merely endeared us. The Theatre Royal offers an evening of pure entertainment for all ages – an essential step on the road to feeling truly ‘christmassy’. We were transformed back into guffawing 8 year olds, and the bitter disappointment of not catching a wagon-wheel has not in any way diminished.