Ticketmaster Summer in Stages

Jack and the Beanstalk

Written and directed by James Barry
Theatre Royal, Winchester

Time was when the annual pantomime was, like sporting fixtures, associated with Boxing Day and the post Christmas holiday season.

Attired in our new Christmas clothes and wearied of turkey and plum duff, we would celebrate with the family, Cinders and Buttons - and wonder as the Flying Ballet of airborne fairies, having exhausted their cross stage routine, would swing sensationally over the stalls and our admiring faces, shouting their greetings to the Circle and the Gods: Happy New Year everybody!

Today, the pantomime season was already in full swing long before the first present was in Santa's sack. Hereabouts, Winchester's Jack and the Beanstalk opened on 6th December as did Salisbury Playhouse's new version of Robin Hood and the Babes in the Wood.

Winchester's Jack and the Beanstalk is primarily a show for younger children - not much to hold the early 'teens and even less for parents and grandma's without whom the annual panto audiences will surely not long survive.

There is a delightful opening ballet, outside Dame Trott's house, choreographed by Sally Stanyard with students from local dancing schools, six of whom are drawn each night from the eighteen-strong team.

Caroline Newman is a shapely Jack with Phil Gallagher as an extremely sturdy Billy. They are joined by Louisa Ashton as Fairy Flora, in her eighth Winchester panto, and Jenny-Ann Topham as the formidable Mrs Plunder.

Clive Flint, last rear's Widow Twankey, makes a popular return as the feckless Mrs Trott with Bristol Old Vic graduate Sophie Lads as Princess Rose.

There is an excellent representation of Giant Plunder in the Castle Dungeons and amusing interludes from the ever-present Daisy the Cow.

Music by Simon Slater provides a cheery lilt to the show without any sense of real presence or original melody.

Reviewer: Kevin Catchpole