Review: Jack and the Beanstalk (New Wolsey, online)

The New Wolsey Theatre in Ipswich have returned with two options to see their rock ‘n’ roll pantomime for 2021 – I opted to watch the livestream so I could enjoy the lengthy show without too much travelling or too late a night. This is a behemoth of a show, running two and a half hours in total, so take note if you have little ones who flag before 10pm.

I really enjoyed the digital offering last year of The Snow Queen, and was pleased to see some actors from that production returning here, notably Steve Simmonds as the Dame (Dolly Durden). This year his flatulent widow is the mother of Jack (a lively Neil Urquhart), who wants to marry Jill (a winning Daniella Piper), the daughter of the local squire (Snuffbox, played by Daniel Carter-Hope) but can’t raise the rent.

Production image of Jack and the Beanstalk

This is a traditional panto with a fantastic line-up of songs and characters – goodies (Natasha Magigi’s Fairy Aubergine) and baddies (Nicola Bryan’s Fleshcreep), a pantomime cow, a giant singing We Will Rock You, a village idiot (James Haggie), lovely puppet animals singing in the farmyard, and a beanstalk in the dungheap. Actor musicians and video inserts are key to keeping the interest sharp, with clever use of pop music classics (Go Your Own Way, Take On Me).

A fun duet of Lady Marmalade for Dolly and the Squire in ‘Las Piddling’ gives us both love and money as secondary plots, while the moments in the giant’s lair way up in the beanstalk are full of menace. To keep the at-home audience on side, there are filmed portions as well as those peformed live, and the audience participation works wherever you are.

Production image from Jack and the Beanstalk

This may be lengthy, but writer Peter Rowe has again created something which mixes plot, puns and poo jokes galore, and the enthusaism of both actors and audience keep it moving at a steady pace. Clearly, given the costumes, lighting and set, this has been a labour of love to plan and create, and everything works really well down to each golden oldie which appears to give mums, dads, and grandparents that hint of nostagia.

Directed by Kate Colledge, this definitely delivers sold fun for the whole family. To see it live book here, and for the livestream, book here. Jack and the Beanstalk runs at the New Wolsey until 8 January 2022.

Image credit: Mike Kwasniak