Friday, January 27

Jack and the Beanstalk – Lyric Hammersmith Theatre

Widely acknowledged as a staple part of the festive celebrations, pantomime has a long theatrical history in the UK, performed up and down the country during Christmas and New Year, with the expected, cookie cutter format, with singing, dancing, cross-dressing and slapstick humour, along with a healthy dose of topical references and audience participation. It’s not often you would describe a pantomime as quality theatrical production, they are usually lots of fun, something for the kids to enjoy, and a mixed bag of talent, but the creative team at the Lyric Hammersmith has raised the bar this year with this year’s production, ‘Jack and the Beanstalk’, written by Jude Christian and Sonia Jalaly, and directed by Nicholai La Barrie. The team has kept all of the essential pantomime elements but has presented them in an innovate and highly creative format that rivals any grand west end musical.

Let’s first acknowledge the highly imaginative, creative efforts of set and costume designers, Good Teeth, and lighting designer by Elliot Griggs. The costumes are bright, modern, and perfectly executed. A nod to high street fashions, whilst maintaining the traditional styles of pantomime. The set design is bold, big, and colourful, with plenty of technical wizardry, smoke, and pyrotechnics, but managing to keep the expected “homemade” elements you want from a pantomime.  The lighting is high tech, and perfectly in keeping with the truly refreshing, modern perspective on what the traditional pantomime should look and feel like.

Credit and copyright: Helen Murray

The writing team has done a really good job at mixing jokes, innuendo, political nods, and topical references into a fast-paced script that lands well with the audience throughout.  Good pantomime writing should please all ages, and ‘Jack and the Beanstalk’ ticks all of the boxes. Jill (Maddison Bulleyment) has recently graduated as a Fairy Godmother, they must make the world better in three wishes, and has selected their best friend Jack (Leah St Luce) to keep a magical watch over. But the villain of Hammersmith, Fleshcreep (Jodie Jacobs) is raising taxes, and wants money from Jack, her Mum, Dame Trott (Emmanuel Akwafo) and Brother, Simon (Finlay McGuigan). If the family don’t pay up, he’s going to start stealing what he thinks he is owed, including their beloved cow Daisy, and feed them the evil giant in the sky. Unsure how they can raise enough money, to save the family business, Jack swaps beloved Daisy, for a bag of magic (baked) beans, and what follows is an adventurous journey up the beanstalk, with golden egg laying geese, extreme skateboarding, and milk explosions, to save not only the family business but to spread a very clear message about the importance of being kind and not greedy in these economically challenging times. The punchy, modern script is supported by a fresh, contemporary, reworked, set list of familiar songs arranged and composed by Corin Buckeridge including Duke & Jones, Beyoncé, and offered up by the band, led by Musical Director, Adam Gerber. There is a healthy dose of pop and rap, as well as a parody version of “I’m Not Going” from Dreamgirls.

The cast is very small but achieve maximum impact with their performance skills. By a long mile the star of the show is Maddison Bulleyment. They are an incredibly accomplished, but also young, performer with an exceptional vocal talent and an inspiration for the younger audience members. It’s not often that a performer attracts a round of applause from the audience mid-way though their song, but there is something truly breath-taking about the quality of their voice. Jodie Jacobs is also scene-stealingly brilliant as the villainous, and slightly campy Fleshcreep. She manages to capture the essence of the pantomime baddy whilst wearing a glitter moustache and beard and does so with style. There were times when the audience didn’t know whether to boo her character or cheer her talent. A truly skilled performer. The comedy duo Emmanuel Akwafo and Finlay McGuigan are also brilliant as Dame Trott and Simon, together they line up joke after joke and do an amazing job at connecting with the audience, both young and old.

In every way, this new version of ‘Jack and the Beanstalk’ is a winner. It juxtaposes the traditional elements of pantomime with new ideas and fresh, young talent and is surely the hot ticket for the London 2022 pantomime season. Great family fun and very highly recommended – Do not miss out on this one!

‘Jack and the Beanstalk’ runs at the Lyric Hammersmith Theatre, London until 7th January 2023. Tickets can be purchased here:  

Reviewer: Alan Stuart Malin

Reviewed: 26th November 2022

North West End UK Rating: ★★★★★