Theatre in Wales

Theatre, dance and performance reviews

A Tall Tale, Way Out West

Jack and the Beanstalk

Torch Theatre , Torch Theatre, Milford Haven , December 5, 2001
If you're in the mood for a tall tale head way out west to the Torch Theatre - pantomimes don't get much taller - or wilder - than the production of 'Jack and the Beanstalk' being staged until December 29th.

Although this is 'Jack and the Beanstalk' as you've NEVER seen it before, it retains all the best elements of panto, so there's enough 'it's behind you's', 'oh-no-it-isn't's and 'when I nod my head, hit it's to satisfy even the most ardent panto purist.

But this is definitely Jack with a twist - the Wild West setting is a surprise, as is the fact that the town's head honcho is a King - but a king of rock'n'roll. Cue brilliant Elvis Las Vegas-style costumes and performances from designer Sean Crowley and actor Garry Lake, respectively. Yes ma'am, that Garry Lake sure can sing!

Adding credibility to the performance is the seriously good Craig Rogan. Any show that features an actor who can switch between the heart-rending, gut-wrenching poignancy of Ian McEwan's 'Conversation with a Cupboard Man' and the daft male lead in a pantomime, has to be worth watching.

In another seamless performance he demonstrated his considerable acting talents, and an ability to sing and dance.

His stage mother, dozy Dame Trot, is Lee Mengo - only in pantomime does it seem entirely feasible that a kind of dolly Parton lookalike should have a South Wales valleys accent you could cut wiht a blunt chainsaw. He was brilliant - demonstrating some superb coming timing - not easy with an audience of schoolkids all taking the concept of audience participation to its extreme limits. The Max Wall-style baddie Igor also had some great lines and provided a most watchable performance.

The female performers came in the guise of a feisty duo - Mad Cow Denise, played by Karin Diamond, and Princess Roxanne, played by Tonya Smith, who, in a neat twist on your average panto, were as brave and bold as any hero. 'Jack and the Beanstalk' is definitely panto for the 21st Century.

With an entire catalogue of original songs by composer and musical director James Williams, and sumptuous sets from Sean Crowley, director Peter Doran has anotehr sure-fire, feel-good hit for Christmas

Reviewed by: Fiona Phillips

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