Jack and the Beanstalk.

Jack and the Beanstalk
Cidermill Theatre
Chipping Campden
Playing until January 7

Is there no end to the hard work, skills and versatility of the Artistic Director of The Attic Theatre, John-Robert Partridge? Not content with directing two pantomimes – this one and Dick Whittington at Stratford’s The Attic Theatre – he also plays Dame Dotty with stripy socks and loads of ridiculously wonderful costumes in this production of Jack and the Beanstalk. True to form this is a pantomime for all the family.
There’s a threadbare story, a beanstalk to climb in the second half, really splendid singing in Abigail Brennan’s compilation of popular songs, a villain in the form of Alastair Oakley’s Freshcreep, in a sexy overdone costume and so good looking that even Lily Bennett’s Fairy Beansprout mentions how handsome he is, a charming hero in Jonathan Houlston’s Welsh Jack Trott and a newcomer, George Ormerod, who plays Simple Simon with energy and verve. There’s a lot of dancing, too, with some lovely routines choreographed by Helen Leek and featuring the doubly hyphenated dancers Bethany Tolhurst-McWattgreen and Madison Wooton-Porter. That’s not all the cast. Rob Leetham plays the rubbish role of The Lord Chamberlain and makes the most of it. He’s a delight to watch. And there’s Daisy, the cow that Jack has to sell, who steals the show in the several scenes in which she appears, worked by two people, does some delightful dances and, meanly, doesn’t get a mention in the programme. Neither does the huge giant who appears in the second half.
The show begins simply with Fairy Beansprout and Fleshcreep in stage right and stage left spots on the apron, but then the curtain parts and a townscape backdrop is revealed. The panto uses the whole stage and has other backdrops, too, contributing to Adam Clarke’s excellent and surprisingly elaborate design. Dame Dotty’s ‘It’s raining men’ is one of the highlights of the first half and her desire for another man draws her to flirt with a balding member of the audience. Jack’s lovely duet with the Princess and the hilarious ballet between Dame Dotty and Fleshcreep are two more highlights.
You spend the interval wondering how they are going do the beanstalk and then there it is after the interval, replete with health and safety footholds for climbing. Very funny.
It wouldn’t be a Tread the Boards pantomime without some of their staple and hilarious routines. The Twelve Days of Christmas routine, perilously close to chaos is a joy and so is the ghosties routine. I loved the pseudo Warhol touches in the castle scene, too. And there’s even a sword fight between Jack and Fleshcreep.
What more could you ask for in the Christmas and New Year season? Everything is held together excellently by stage manager Kat Murray. It certainly is a treat for all the family, but it’s not just for families. There’s also the bonus of some splendid eye candy.

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