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Review: Jack & The Beanstalk at South Shields Customs House
The Little Panto With A Big Heart is a highlight of our reviewing calendar. It is full of big laughs and has a real feeling of community. It is growing in stature and should no longer consider itself to be a poor relation to the region’s bigger shows. Jack & The Beanstalk is another cracker for the South Tyneside venue.
The show begins with some introductions: we have a glamorous Fairy Arachis (Eleanor Chaganis) representing good and wonderfully flamboyant Fleshcreep (Steven Lee Hamilton), who is the giant’s servant, representing evil. Holding the show together once again is superb Ray Spencer MBE, who also directs and co-wrote the show with Graeme Thompson, as Dame Trott. Unlike some shows, this one involves its audience whenever possible.
Dame Trott is in debt and owes rent to her landlord, the Mayor of Cooksonville (Gareth Hunter). Her son, Jack (Luke Maddison) is in love with the Mayor’s daughter Eloise (Natasha Haws). Her other son, Arbuthnot (David John Hopper), is as daft as a brush and he often gets the wrong end of the stick. Dame Trott decides the only solution to their financial situation is to sell their cow called, in this version, Doddington the cow. Fleshcreep has other ideas for the people of Cooksonville as he has to keep his master, the Giant (voiced by Jason Cook), happy.
Scattered through the show are numerous songs which seemed different to the usual platter and they’re well sung.Musical director Dave Bintley has produced a tight soundtrack.
The show looks glamorous. The set and costumes, from Matt Fox and Paul Shriek, are all bright and creative.Adding to the glamour are the great dancers from the South Tyneside Dace Workshop.
At the centre of the action is Dame Trott. Ray Spencer knows how to control both the action on stage and the audience watching it. His ability to handle each situation as it arises is unique.The one liners flow but nothing feels harsh or nasty. He is the consummate professional.
This is a great ensemble piece. There are no weak links in the cast as they work hard for each other and the audience.
The record ticket sales suggest a large number who saw last year’s show have booked again. They will not be disappointed as the Customs House panto goes from strength to strength. It isn’t afraid to talk to the audience, if fact there is active encouragement of a reaction. From calls of “its behind you” to the community singing towards the end, there is plenty of opportunity for everyone to feel a part of the show.
This is a well paced show full of comedic one liners, slapstick humour and a talented cast. Once again this is the panto that delivers all that it promises.
Review by Stephen Oliver
Tickets: Jack and the Beanstalk is on from November 29, 2016to January 7, 2017. Tickets start from £9.75 and are available from the box office on 0191 454 1234 or by visiting www.customshouse.co.uk.