With a lot theatres around the country still closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic, many pantomimes have sadly been cancelled this festive season. Thankfully former Blue Peter presenter Peter Duncan has come to the rescue with his homemade pantomime of Jack and the Beanstalk, now available to stream online.
Filmed in Duncan’s own back garden, the classic tale of Jack and the Beanstalk is given a contemporary twist. Villagers are stuck in a lockdown (sound familiar?) with Giant Blunderbore ordering them to stay home and stay apart. When Jack’s mother Dame Trott finds herself struggling to pay the rent, unable to cope on Universal Credit, Jack sells their beloved cow Buttercup for what he thinks is a bag of gold, but is in fact beans. When the beans grow into a giant beanstalk, Jack is forced to climb it to rescue his girlfriend Jill from Blunderbore’s and his evil sidekick and save the day.
As well as starring as Dame Trott, Peter Duncan directs along with Ian Talbot, and the pair have done a fine job in translating this Panto to screen. This online production features all of the classic elements of pantomime: lots of laughs and silliness the traditional pantomime dame and, of course, audience participation is very much encouraged. There’s plenty to entertain both young and old, with the topical references to the likes of Donald Trump and climate change certain to amuse.
Jack and the Beanstalk is a production which captures the imagination from start to finish, and it’s amazing what the show is able to achieve in its surroundings. The stunning outside setting is used in such a creative way to tell the story (and of course helps with social distancing), with almost everything a prop or part of the show. The musical numbers are catchy and pleasing enough, with some tunes which will certainly sound familiar, and there’s also the opportunity for a singalong in the show.
The cast are all enthusiastic, bringing the energy needed for panto. Sam Ebenezer and Sarah Moss are both endearing as Jack and Jill; while Jos Vantyler is the perfect pantomime villain as Fleshcreepy, evil (but not overly so) as he taunts audience members even through the screen. But as with most pantomimes its the dames who are the stars of the show and Peter Duncan is certainly no exception. He’s brilliant as Dame Trott, both entertaining and cheeky as he lights up the screen with his hilarious (and awful – in a good way) jokes.
With a running time of 85 minutes there is a danger that the production might be a tad too long for some of the younger viewers, but on the whole Jack and the Beanstalk is a fun family pantomime, full of joy and laughter, just what we all need this Christmas.