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REVIEW: Jack and the Beanstalk at Darlington Hippodrome

Jack and the Beanstalk
Darlington Hippodrome
Until Sunday 5 January 2020

Darlington's pantomime has a something of a dance theme this year, but it is more than that. The people of Darlington don't have to travel to another town to see a fabulous pantomime this year. Rather the opposite, as Darlo shows the rest how it's done. This isn't a glamorous panto in which the audience are just bystanders. This is one in which they're fully involved. And tonight they loved it...and so did we.

I know, regular readers, I know. That's 6 out of 6 this season but 2019 is turning into one of the best for the quality of panto in our region. Don't worry, if a turkey comes up, we'll call it out.

So what was it about Darlington? It was funny. I mean really funny. With everyone laughing. It was glamorous, with fabulous costumes and set design. The cast seem to get on with each other and the panto format. They created characters that the audience loved. The dancing filled the stage, Jack in particular showing off his talents. Good singing from Princess Apricot and Jack. No insistence that everyone gets a song and pads the show out- just the right number of songs. The babes were adorable, and probably very warm, in their sheep costumes. It was well paced, just the right length and ... it remembered to be funny.

Don't get me wrong, regular readers will know I don't watch much TV and have never seen Strictly Come Dancing for a full episode. But I get that it is popular and it has made dancing popular.  The audience loved the references to the show and that's good. Strictly judge Shirley Ballas appears as Mother Nature and she gets a number of opportunities to show her moves.

Jack and the Beanstalk was also our first "if I was not in pantomime" routine of the year. A lively one at that. We had a great take off scene with the rat too. No messy scene in this panto but the show didn't need it.

Tongue twisters were definitely a feature and comic Phil Walker worked the crowd well. It should be said the script was also family friendly and kept intentional rude jokes limited to a reference to Jack's large chopper when the Beanstalk met its demise. Iain Stuart Robertson’s Dame Trott was also the source of many laughs and costume changes.

Jack (George Sampson) and Princess Apricot (Lauren Hall) seemed a likeable couple (not always the case in pantoland!). Jack was pretty  impressive when busting out his dance moves too.

And we had a Fleshcreep that the audience needed little reminding to boo at.  Experienced Daniel Taylor understands the role and he was able to illicit the correct responses from the willing Darlington audience – for they too have their part to play in making panto work.

So, there you have it. A panto that was well worth our 88 mile round trip. It represented everything we love about the crazy three ringed circus that is good pantomime. It was the first panto not to have a spilt vote in the car this year. Essential watching for anyone wondering why panto is so popular.

ps Dear Darlington Council – any chance of fixing the pelican crossing outside of your premier cultural venue before someone gets hurt?

Review by Stephen Oliver
Photos: Chris Booth

Jack and the Beanstalk runs at Darlington Hippodrome from Friday 6 December 2019 to Sunday 5 January 2020. For full details and to book visit or call 01325 405405.

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