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Jack and the Beanstalk

Andrew Pollard
Greenwich Theatre
Greenwich Theatre

Andrew Pollard as Dame Trott in Greenwich Theatre's 'Jack and the Beanstalk' Credit: Robert Day
Alim Jayda as Nightshade in Greenwich Theatre's 'Jack and the Beanstalk' Credit: Robert Day
Sophie Ayers as Jill in Greenwich Theatre's 'Jack and the Beanstalk' Credit: Robert Day

Ten years ago, Andrew Pollard wrote the script for Aladdin at the Greenwich Theatre. Little did he know that that would be the start of a wonderful partnership which would see him later take on the role of both Dame and director and catapult Greenwich to the status of one of the best pantos in the business.

Revisiting Jack and the Beanstalk for the second time during Pollard's reign at the theatre, 2014's Greenwich panto is more sentimental than previous years', with the show's moral the strongest to date. Jack lacks confidence and Pollard's script shows that with a little self belief and by working as a team great things can happen.

Teamwork is at the centre of the Greenwich pantomime and every member of the cast, crew and creative team works hard to respectfully deliver a truly thoughtful and creative pantomime that honours tradition, acknowledges the adults and drives the genre forward into the twenty-first century.

In amongst the contemporary chart hits, Morecambe and Wise's 'Positive Thinking' is a touching number between Dame Trott, Jack and Daisy, who in this version is a calf, so scared by the Giant that she has forgotten how to moo.

Choosing to present Daisy as a puppet works extremely well, the 'mini-moo' adorable from the moment she is seen in her cot and even more effective due to the emotion conjured up by skilful puppeteering. When Dame Trott sings a reprise of 'Positive Thinking' to bid farewell to her loved one, Pollard hits the mark spot on, tugging at the heartstrings and demonstrating a real bond between Dame and Daisy.

Not sickly sweet or lustful, Greenwich's Principal Boy and Girl are always some of the strongest in the land and this year is no exception, the fine voices of Tom Oakley and Sophie Ayers adding to their characters' likeability. It is truly believable that Jack and Jill have butterflies whenever they see each other, their nervous excitement so palpable that audience members can't wait for them to confess how they feel so that they can be together forever.

Of course nothing ever runs smoothly in Pantoland and, aiding the Giant's tyrannous rule, Nightshade played by Alim Jayda is the show's David Blaine inspired 'rudeboi' Villain.

Ever inventive, Pollard's script doubles the cross-dressed quota in a subplot that sees Nightshade masquerade as the Giant's cook. This allows for an exquisitely executed Broken Mirror Sequence set to Britney Spears's 'Toxic' and enables Jayda and Pollard to showcase their comic timing and a possible panto partnership we hope to see much more of in the future.

With Greenwich regular Paul Critoph currently starring in The 39 Steps, the role of Mayor Boris is played by Martin Johnston, who, along with Pollard and Jayda, brings the house down in a modern take on the Afternoon Tea slosh scene incorporating an ever-deflating blow-up sofa and a top-to-toe bandaged Dame Trott complete with comedy crutch.

Tickets are already being snapped up for Pollard's Dame Decade next year, even though Greenwich Theatre has yet to announce the title. This just goes to show, in the words of Jack and Jill's Clean Bandit inspired pop ballard, there's no place the Greenwich audience would 'Rather Be'.

Reviewer: Simon Sladen