Jack and the Beanstalk at Wakefield Theatre Royal

jack and the beanstalk

Girl power, Twerking and Cheese – a recipe for panto success: Catherine Yaffe and family went to see Jack and the Beanstalk at Wakefield Theatre Royal …

For the second year running we were heading to Wakefield to watch what is fast becoming a family tradition – the Theatre Royal annual pantomime. For the last 11 months the girls had speculated on just how a giant would fit into the little theatre, and we’d answered innumerable, impossibly awkward questions about cross dressing.

I imagine every parent is familiar with the traditional Jack and the Beanstalk story – jack, cow, beans giant and all those elements were there but build in a touch of girl power, some questionable ‘Twerking’ and just plain daft stuff and you’ve got a sure fire recipe for success.

This year’s panto saw Chris Hannon returning not just as the dame but also as the writer. Whilst the supporting cast were also brilliant it was Chris, as Jack’s mother Tina Trumpington, and his natural ability for impromptu interaction with the audience and dealing with the unexpected that brought the house down, all seemingly effortlessly done – and with hilarious results.

Full of localisms, being set in the village of Windfield and of course with a Dame called Trumpington there was no way the night was going to pass without relevant trumping noises that the sound team should be proud of, though thankfully it wasn’t smell-o-vision! Of course there was the host of gags about Dame Tina’s search for love, only to be aimed at a poor dad in the audience who took the merciless bullying in good spirit, as only one can from a bloke in a dress let’s be honest.

Jack, played by Harry Blumenau was the predictable wet-blanket, out smarted in brain and brawn by a feisty fearless Jill (Laura Pick). Both with life lessons to learn, he on how to be a man whilst she needed to loosen up a little, both characters were instantly likeable. The role of Jill’s dad, Duke Box was a little outdated (not sure the youngsters knew or understood the continual, often irrelevant Elvis references) but his character was lovable nonetheless, helped particularly by the ‘romance’ with Dame Tina.

And of course, every panto has it’s baddy and this year it was the turn of Ghastly Gordon (a semantic chef) and his less than able assistant Sue Chef (see what they did there?). We first met Sue with some awful reference to Yorkshire and Working, reinvented as T’werking, cue Miley-esque gyrating from Sue. This shouldn’t really have worked on a level in a kids pantomime but somehow it did, though the comic performance by Sue (Amy Bird) was one of the stand out characters and I feel the audience would have forgiven her anything. Ghastly Gordon attracted the obligatory boos and hisses and the character became nastier and over-played as the performance progressed.

There were flashes of genius, Daisy the cow dancing to ‘Milkshake’, renditions of Bohemian Rhapsody with appropriately re-written lyrics as well as somehow managing to shoehorn in a reference to a local car dealer (theatrical austerity measures by all accounts). Appropriate amount of cheesiness that is customary in every pantomime, and of course the sing-a-long chorus finale that had the entire theatre on its feet.

Sure to be a crowd pleaser that I predict will only get more bonkers as the season progresses but what a fabulous, value-for-money way to spend a family evening out.