Jack, Mum and the Beanstalk

Sam Caseley
Hull Truck Theatre Company
Hull Truck Theatre

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Jack, Mum and the Beanstalk

I’ve always been a fan of the children’s Christmas shows at Hull Truck. The problem is that my kids are now all grown up and I don’t have grandchildren yet. So, I tend to feel a bit awkward taking my seat among myriad tiny tots all eager to see the entertainment. But what the hell?

Writing and performing for children is a much misunderstood and underrated skill. The idea that it’s easier or less important is deeply flawed. Engaging children in the magic of live performance, sustaining that fascination and encouraging children to develop it into adulthood is what will keep theatre alive. It’s also a wonderful educational tool. I’ve always thought the Christmas children’s shows at Truck exemplify this principle and this year’s offering is no exception.

Hull Truck’s children’s show, Jack, Mum and the Beanstalk, has all the right ingredients: a simple and familiar story, lots of interaction with the actors, some lovely visual elements as well as great performances by the actors. Writer Sam Caseley keeps the dialogue straightforward but punchy and humorous and Tom Saunders’s taut direction ensures that the story remains pacy and engaging. It was a sensitive touch to make the giant a figure of sympathy rather than vengeance and the lessons about friendship were delivered effectively and gently.

In the role of Jack is Levi Payne, last seen at Truck earlier in the year in the revamped Teechers. He is likeable, energetic and develops a great rapport with the audience. Mum is played by experienced children’s theatre performer Lucy Litchfield. She is a gentle counter to Jack and when her exasperation with him finally boils over, she manages to garner sympathy without overplaying or sentimentalising. Lucy’s experience in this genre shows. Finally, Fred Weeks turns in a fine performance as The Giant. It’s great to see a local performer ‘graduating’ into a professional production. Hopefully we’ll see more of him in the future. What all three actors manage excellently is the skill of communicating to a young audience without either patronising or confusing them.

Jack’s journey into the magical world beyond the beanstalk is vividly enhanced through puppetry and some great design features thanks to Amy Watts’s set, Jessie Addinall’s lighting and Liz Dees’s puppets.

Looking at the capacity crowd of excited young children in the Godber Studio, a good review from me is probably as much use as a second-hand Christmas cracker. The crowds will come anyway. However, it is a pleasure to acknowledge this 50 minutes’ worth of Christmas magic and, if you have young children, go see it—or lend them to me and I’ll go see it again!

Reviewer: Richard Vergette