Jack and the Beanstalk by Jackie Howting
Cheray Hall (St. Edmunds) - 25 January 2020
by markaspen on 25 January 2020
Bean and Gone
Jack and the Beanstalk
by Jackie Howting
Edmundian Players at Cheray Hall, Whitton until 25th January
Review by Mary Stoakes
Edmundian Players belong to a diminishing group of Richmond upon Thames amateur dramatic societies who perform in what is designated by Arts Richmond as a ‘non-dedicated theatrical environment’, i.e. a church hall or similar. These venues usually present with a small stage area, often with little or no wing space, seating which has to be erected nightly, limited changing facilities and little storage room for props and scenery, elaborate costumes appear miraculously, often revamped from charity shops. Edmundians’ pantomimes are a prime example of the excellent and entertaining work which is produced on a very small budget under these difficult conditions year on year.
For 2020 it was the turn of Jack and the Beanstalk. One of the joys of reviewing pantomimes is that there is no need to relate the familiar story. However this adaptation, written specially by Jackie Howting to reflect the energy and enthusiasm of the cast, 18 out of 24 of whom were aged fourteen or under, did contain one or two novel twists and characters which delighted the audience.
The young cast was energetically directed by Jessica Young who was also joint producer with Ellen Walker-DiBella and responsible for the choreography. Jessica was also the scenic artist for the show, producing striking, modern and colourful back cloths for the many scenes. She was ably supported in set building and beanstalk realisation by Dave and Paula Young, together with the versatile Alan Smith. Musical director Paul Wiz Baker not only arranged the music by created many new compositions and, whom one suspects, was responsible for the effective and fearsome Giant’s footsteps and snores. The sound and lighting management for the beanstalk and the demise of the Giant were very evocative and resulted in gasps from the younger members of the enthusiastic audience.
Somewhat surprisingly, the opening scene, A place to unwind and relax, was revealed as a colourful beach on a Greek island where Jack (14 year old Charlie McMaster) and his Mother Dame Trot (Dave Young) were on holiday with a group of mainly young children who formed a strong and well drilled chorus of family and friends. Dave’s pastiche of the song Price Tag demonstrated once again his locally-famed skill as a pantomime dame.
On our return to ‘Wickenham’ we were introduced to some new characters, Dash (Gary Evans) and Joe (Becky Halden) as the as the Debt Collectors working for the Giant. We also met Bertha Blunder (the Giant’s sister – Ellen Walker-DiBella) with a penchant for pizzas and a comically terrifying laugh. All three actors played an entertaining part in the action, with Becky’s expert comic timing and reactions being particularly notable as they struggled with various mishaps and difficulties.
It was good to see Jack played by a teenage boy instead of the usual female ‘Principal boy’. Although we missed some of the swashbuckle and thigh- slapping of females in this rôle, Charlie personified the gullibility and hesitation of the character perceptively and his performance grew in stature as the panto progressed, especially when encouraged by the young chorus in The Only Way Is Up! Clare Blake was suitably demure as Jack’s girlfriend, Cathy.for full reviewhttp://markaspen.com/2020/01/25/jack-bean-2/
Bean and Gone