For many Suffolk locals, the New Wolsey Theatre’s famous Rock’n’Roll panto is a staple for the winter diary. Last year saw the theatre ploughing through adversity and adapting around the pandemic with The Snow Queen – but this year they’ve sized up, giant sized to be precise, and they are welcoming back full-capacity audiences with Jack and the Beanstalk.
What I always enjoy about the New Wolsey theatre is the fact they do their best to find the stories that not as many others are doing, and it’s been a while since I’ve seen the tale of Jack and the Beanstalk circulated – and it’s such a fun fairy tale.
For those that aren’t familiar, young Jack is preparing to be wed to Jill; but he and his mum, Dame Dolly Durden, and their family farm has fallen on hard times – Squire Snuffbox is demanding for the rent, and Giant Blunderbore and his wicked sidekick Fleshcreep are terrorising the land. Therefore, the pair are forced to sell their last remaining cow, Bessie – but when Jack comes back from the market with all but a bag of ‘magic’ beans, it looks like the Durdens are out of luck… and Jack’s relationship with Jill turns rocky, but Fairy Aubergine swiftly pops up to help put things right!
The script is fast-paced, stuffed with classic panto comedy, loaded to the brim with innuendo, and immersive – after all, no panto would be complete without a bit of audience participation and interactions. The sets and costumes are impressive as ever – particularly the beloved ‘Bessie’ and animal friends. I’m always amazed by what they achieve in the intimate space.
Expect many classic rock and pop hits filtered throughout. Songs included Hit The Road Jack, Lady Marmalade, Get Offa My Cloud, We Will Rock You, and Go Your Own Way, to name but a few!
And as ever, the cast are played by a troupe of multi-skilled actor-musicians, and many familiar faces are back. Steve Simmonds is one regulars to the New Wolsey will recognise, and he is back, but this time as Dame Dolly Durden; and his high energy, booming vocals and mischievous chaos is always fun to watch. Natasha Magigi (Fairy Aubergine) and Nicola Bryan (Fleshcreep) gave really great performances, and Neil Urquhart and Daniella Piper as Jack and Jill respectively, share great chemistry and seem to be loving every minute. The supporting cast of James Haggie (Billy), Daniel Carter-Hope (Squire Snuffbox) and Joe Butcher (The Giant) are all superb too.
It really does feel like it’s back bigger and better than before, with the addition of a live-streaming option too – which is really exciting for the theatre because not only does it increase accessibility, but it means anyone from anywhere in the world can tune in for a little bit of panto fun. Nothing quite compares to the feeling of live theatre as a shared experience, but it’s great that it’s open for many more people to enjoy.
Just as you would expect, Jack and the Beanstalk makes for the perfect festive family-friendly trip to the theatre – so hop up the beanstalk today to get your tickets!
Jack and the Beanstalk runs at the New Wolsey Theatre until 8th January 2022. For more information or to book: wolseytheatre.co.uk.
You can also book a livestream performance: wolseytheatre.co.uk/jack-the-beanstalk-livestream.