Jack and the Beanstalk
Guildford’s Yvonne Arnaud Theatre
Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford
If there’s any doubt about the success of this year’s pantomime then just watch/or listen to the children.
Hardly able to contain themselves with excitement, they practically had to be restrained from leaping up on stage to help, and they lived with the story and the pantomime traditions every step of the way. This is Guildford’s traditional family pantomime, just like a familiar christmas party.
It’s the same format as usual of course—it has to be. I think there would be a riot if they didn’t include the ghost scene or the "Twelve Days of Christmas", though this time the most hilarity was for the sight of Dame Trot’s skirt, amidst all the frenzied excitement, gradually succumbing to the force of gravity and slowing descending floor-wards.
Eagle Radio’s Peter Gordon, in his 10th consecutive pantomime at the Yvonne Arnaud, has this time donned the frock—well, several, to be more precise—and sometimes seems to be wearing more than one at a time, although his outfit for the obligatory wedding is very elegant.
Many of the cast are, as usual, graduates or students of Guildford’s Performance Preparation Academy, with the lovely Louise Cannon, who is only in her second year there, making her pantomime debut as Princess Jill, partnered by Steffan Lloyd-Evans as the intrepid Jack bravely climbing the giant beanstalk to fight and conquer the Giant.
Jack begins his climb at the end of act 1, but by act 2 it seems he cheats on the climb and comes by air and the excellent ensemble have changed from villagers and taken on a new career as flight attendants who are so happy in the new job that they just have to dance. Good thing choreographer Jill Francis has provided a great dance number for them which they perform with a swing and the show really takes off.
Airline companies are advertised with banners such as QueasyJet and British Unfair Airways, giving the adults a few giggles, and Jamie Brook’s Silly Billy gives a quick fire resume of act 1 in case we have lost track in the interval. He seems to deliver this all on one breath and at a rate to make us, as well as him, breathless.
Brook really enters into the spirit of pantomime with boundless energy, even managing to laugh through the many custard pies in the face that he has to suffer, and he is very understanding and lovely with the three small children (one only three years old) who were invited up on stage to have a chat (tradition again).
So—we have wobbly scenery, swinging dance numbers (audience spontaneously joining in with one), beautiful love songs and fabulous costumes—what more could one ask for! Ah yes, of course, the good fairy, the wicked villain, the terrifying giant and Daisy the cow who totally endears herself to the audience.
Dilly Keane of Fascinating Aida fame is great, and rather unusually, as a very down-to-earth golfing Fairy Fairway who delights in taunting Kit Hesketh-Harvey’s Dastardly Dick who, in his turn, delights in taunting (and often being rude to) the audience.
Brian Blessed provides the voice for the Giant, in a tone to chill to the very core and the Giant does make an appearance before he is conquered and they can all get on with the love story and the wedding. All’s right with the world and everyone is happy, as of course it is in life! I wish!
Reviewer: Sheila Connor