Jack and the Beanstalk



King’s Theatre, Edinburgh

I thought I knew what to expect with this one. I’ve seen a lot of pantos in my time (and even performed in a few amateur productions when I was a kid). But I have never – NEVER – seen one as accomplished as this. The sheer scale and spectacle of it is genuinely awesome. I left the theatre feeling light as air and full of joy. And surely this is what pantomime is all about?

Allan Stewart (Dame Trot), Andy Gray (Hector) and Grant Stott (Fleshcreep) have made their collective mark as King’s Theatre panto regulars – and it’s easy to see why they’re so popular. They have an easy rapport with each other, as well as with the crowd, and they’re genuinely funny, milking the script for all its worth, as well as ad-libbing profusely to excellent effect. And the supporting cast are all good too, with no weak link among them.

It’s nice to see a pantomime that values its host city; typically, they seem to make jokes at the town’s expense, rather than celebrating its fabulousness as this one does. The good fairy, for example, is presented as ‘The Spirit of the Castle’ (Lisa Lynch), which rather obviously implies that the city itself is a protective one, with goodness at its heart. It’s a lovely touch.

The production values are very high. There’s clearly been no expense spared, and every penny has been well spent. From the superb costuming (the animals are particularly appealing) to the special effects, this is truly a spectacular piece of theatre. The giant, for example, is extraordinarily rendered, a looming monstrosity of a prop, prompting the whole audience to gasp – although even this pales in comparison to Dame Trot’s jaw-dropping beanstalk ascent.

If there’s a criticism, it’s a tiny one: the giant’s demise is perhaps a little underwhelming after everything that has gone before. But honestly, it doesn’t matter. With a show where everything – the music, the choreography, the acting, the writing, the jokes, the scenery – is this impressive, it seems churlish to criticise.

By far the best pantomime I have ever seen: a standout production.

5 stars

Susan Singfield

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