Theatre in Wales

Theatre, dance and performance reviews

Jack and the Beanstalk

Wardens Company , Aberystwyth Arts Centre , January-08-10
Jack and the Beanstalk by Wardens Company I always enjoy the first night production of a show. We as an audience get to see the excitement and vivaciousness of a nervous cast with an unbounded energy who are bright eyed and bushy tailed awaiting the rise of the theatre curtain. I was disappointed that the opening night was cancelled due to bad weather and so brought myself along to the next opening night on Thursday 7th of January and I was very glad that I did. With a group of people ranging from the ages of 8 to 62 my party spanned a large age bracket and I will try and give their points of view on the pantomime as well as my own.

Directed and written by the exceedingly talented Richard Cheshire this pantomime is packed full of jokes, phenomenal musical numbers and more importantly a traditional story that everyone knows and loves. With a strong harmonic chorus and an endlessly talented band, Elinor Powell created a rich sound full of depth and some truly ‘hair standing on back of neck’ moments. Rachel West’s choreography complimented this superbly and as always her brave and inspirational dancers were eye catching throughout. The children who performed in the show were also fantastic, their constant lovely smiles and energy were adorable.

It was noted in the program that the part of ‘Jack’ had been given to Tom Stroud who was previously playing the role of ‘Billy’. I would never have known that this wasn’t always the situation if it had not stated so. He was a fantastic leading man, giving everything he needed to win the entire audience. My grandchildren loved his childlike persona and were so excited whenever he walked onstage. My wife thought he was very charming and in her words ‘rather dishy’, for myself I followed him on his journey and he guided the audience with ease and confidence. His love interest was played by the delightful ‘Katie Bottoms’ who lit up the stage every time she came onto it. She played the role differently to how I have seen it played before; she had a commanding presence and was on occasion quite spirited and yet still reverted to the damsel in distress when she needed too.

Julie McNicholls was a humorous and lovely fairy; Timothy Howe and Theresa Jones were the comedy duo of ‘Sausage and Mash’ I would have liked to have seen more of them, they were both hilarious and Timothy Howe was a very welcomed addition to the Wardens team. David Blumfield once again took on the part of the evil henchman, ‘Fungus Fleshcreep’. He has an innate talent for engaging the audience and he is definitely a baddy who the audience love to hate.

Michelle Jackson was the annoying, opera singing harp and it was interesting to see it played by a person as opposed to a prop. Roy Leet played ‘Clarence Clanger’, it also appears he was the voice of the giant which was terrifying and Mr Leet possesses a fantastic ‘evil’ laugh, however this confused my grandchildren as they thought that ‘Clarence Clanger’ was the giant and it took a bit of explaining and in some ways ruined the magic of this mythical figure.

This brings me nicely to the giant itself. The magnificence of this beast can not be explained; on his first appearance it was a shadow, which lulled the audience into thinking that that was all we were going to get. When the actual giant walked on stage it created such a buzz in the audience that it cannot be described adequately. It was truly astonishing and even at my age I reverted back to being a 10 year old boy and was so excited that I couldn’t contain myself and was pointing and vocalising my amazement along with everyone else.

Playing the giant’s cook was the ever remarkable Rachel Crane. It was great to see her in a different role playing a villainess, however her comedic timing and unbelievable singing voice forces the audience to fall in love with her every time, it has become a habit of hers but she stole the show. Ioan Guile played the hysterical ‘King Eggbert’ who was as always a fantastic aid to ‘Dame Trot’ played by Richard Cheshire. Their double act is the main draw of the Warden’s pantomime and they literally have you rolling in the aisles. Richard Cheshire is one of the best dames I have ever seen and this year I have already seen 3 including ‘Mark Hudson’ in Surrey and ‘Kevin Johns’ in Swansea. Richard Cheshire has this art form down to perfection and this double acts side splitting antics are well worth braving the weather.

On the whole this first night was touched by a few fluffed lines and forgotten lyrics and dance moves. However this did not detract from the brilliance that is the Warden’s traditional pantomime. It is always a highlight of my year and definitely the best pantomime in the country. I urge you all to dig your way out of your houses, walk if you need to because this years offering can not be missed.

Reviewed by: Paul Hodges

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