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REVIEW: Jack and the Beanstalk at Whitley Bay Playhouse

The Bench Returns!

Jack and the Beanstalk
Whitley Bay Playhouse
Until Saturday 4th January 2020
Tickets are still available from the theatre box office and online from #Ad

Comic Steve Walls and panto dame Daniel Mawston return for their annual panto at the theatre on the coast. This isn’t business as usual, as the established panto has had an overhaul, and the changes are all positive.  The end result is a perfect family friendly panto in which the adults will laugh as much as the kids.

Happyvale has a problem, up in the clouds is a giant that is causing havoc. Through his henchman Fleshcreep (Guy Mott) he is able to terrorise the people below. The people need a hero and Jack Trott (Harry Downes) is the person for the job, especially after King Crumble (David Burton) offered the opportunity to marry his daughter Princess Jill (Molly Scott).

The show’s action frequently centres around Jack’s brother Simple Simon as Steve Walls enjoys his tenth year at the Playhouse. His stage mother, Dame Patsy Trott, is building a successful panto partnership as the characters work well on stage together. The third source of humour on stage comes in the shape of the return of Damien Patton as Fleshcreep’s sidekick Oddball.  Comic timing from these three actors, and a healthy helping of jokes at regular intervals, means that the audience have plenty to laugh at.

This is probably to note a change in direction for the Playhouse panto. In past years this show has been very safe for very young children. The engaging Steve Walls enrolling them into his gang and humour running very much at a Cbeebies level. This year there are jokes for the adults in the room too. No worries, this is still a safe panto to take your young children to but there will be the occasional line that flies over their head and have the adults laughing.

And the other change? I swear they have finally fixed the sound issues too! Perhaps that was just my old age, but the previous couple of years have been let down by unclear sound – not this year.

This panto crams many of the panto staples into its 2 hour, plus interval, running time. A crazy messy scene, songs featuring lively performances from the professional dancers and “panto babes”, a bad guy to boo at, community singing and even a Spice Girls mega-mix to get you on your feet at the end. Of course the panto features a take-off scene, with that bench, which has the kids screaming at the tops of their voices “it’s behind you!”

There is also a fairy. Except this fairy is Fairy Liquid, performed by Ashleigh Butler, who shot to fame in Britain’s Got Talent, with Sully – a dog with many skills. The usual advice is to avoid performing with kids and animals but both were adorable in today’s show.

This is a show that flew by. Director Charlotte Sheridan gets entertaining performances from a cast that are clearly enjoying working together. Guy Mott is not too nasty as the bad guy, Harry Downes and Molly Scott work well as the panto love story whilst Steve Walls, Daniel Mawston and Damian Patton go from strength to strength as the generators of mirth.

There is a real pleasure when you see a panto that hits the sweet spot. The Playhouse panto has finally found its groove. A great cast and good writing combine to produce a very entertaining show.

Review by Stephen Oliver.
Photos by Steve Brock.

Tickets are still available from the theatre box office and online from #Ad

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