Jack and the Beanstalk

Jonathan Kiley and Alan McHugh
Qdos Entertainment
Theatre Royal, Nottingham

The Chuckle Brothers as Barry and Paul Trot Credit: Shawn Ryan
Tony Maudsley as Dame Trot Credit: Shawn Ryan
Chico as Jack Trot Credit: Shawn Ryan

In these technological times, theatres are looking for ways to keep their pantos modern and fresh. Nottingham Theatre Royal’s version of Jack and the Beanstalk is billed as “the giant 3D pantomime spectacular” and it provides a clever way of depicting the giant that Jack has to fight.

Jack goes into a strange world above the clouds where the angry giant is looking to satisfy his appetite—any humans will have the right taste.

Thanks to 3D glasses handed out before the performance, the audience are able to picture the huge, scary world of the giant who threatens to make a meal out of our heroes.

Yet the 3D element is not the only success of the evening. The star turn in Jack and the Beanstalk is the Chuckle Brothers, taking part in their 49th consecutive panto and back at the Theatre Royal after a gap of 16 years.

They play Paul and Barry Trot, Jack’s brothers, and steal the show with their hilarious antics, impeccable timing and their instantaneous ability to ad lib.

A scene in which Barry—the shorter one—acts as an assistant to his magician brother and makes use of a cucumber has some audience members with tears rolling down their cheeks.

When Barry dons a curly wig and leather jacket for an audition for The X Factor, he gets advice from Paul who at the same time is giving instructions about how to alter a dress. The confusion is commendably funny.

And a slapstick sketch towards the end when the brothers invite three men and a woman to enact Goldilocks and the Three Bears is simple yet outrageously comical.

The Chuckle Brothers certainly know how to work an audience. They may have been using some of their material for many years but the way they deliver it still makes people laugh.

They are not the only successes of Jack and the Beanstalk. Tony Maudsley, mouthy hairdresser Kenneth in the ITV series Benidorm, makes his panto debut as Dame Trot and gains a new set of fans. He is loud, brash and delivers innuendos without being crude.

Chico as Jack Trot has calmed down since he was dubbed “crazy” on The X Factor; he is now an all-round entertainer with plenty of panto experience which shines through.

Daniel Boys is suitably creepy as Fleshcreep, Sarah Earnshaw adds magic as Spirit of the Beans and Ian Gledhill gives a sterling yet wacky performance when standing in as King Crumble.

Gemma Buckingham adds charm as Princess Apricot although the songs chosen for her do not always suit her voice.

There were a few minor glitches on the evening that I saw Jack and the Beanstalk which was only the second public performance. The interaction between the cast and the 3D animation was not quite right, the sword fight between Jack and Fleshcreep was a little tame and a couple of dance routines were not quite together. But this is just being finicky.

Director Ken Alexander has come up with a slick, polished production which will get even better the longer it goes on. And it will give you more than a chuckle: it’s a real laugh-out-loud treat.

Reviewer: Steve Orme