Theatre review: Jack and the Beanstalk at Park Theatre

Revamp of fairytale is chock full of beans, says Caroline David

It’s pantomime season and there’s more than you might expect in Jez Bond and Mark Cameron’s re-imagined Jack and the Beanstalk.

This clever take on the traditional story marries slapstick with all manner of meta-theatrical and literary japes. It’s cleverly done: a freewheeling confection, overloaded but unfailingly exuberant.

Running with a joke that the Park has simultaneously programmed Hamlet as part of its festive season, the actors start with a scene from the doomed prince only to be interrupted by a disgruntled ‘audience member’. The cast re-assesses and then catapults the audience into the land of Gazoob where the evil inventor Ms Grimm wants world domination.

Meanwhile, in the neighbourhood Kingdom of Nowen, Tina [Tupperware consultant to the stars] and her son Jack struggle to pay the rent. Grimm’s lovely daughter Grethel and her boyfriend Geoff – the smallest giant in the world – try their best to block Grimm’s plans. When Grimm turns Geoff into a bean, only a band of singing mariachi shepherds can help Jack save the day.

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As well as Shakespeare, there are far-reaching references: TV soaps, Groucho Marx, classic poetry, to name a few; they come thick and fast. The versatile cast bound between sharp physical comedy routines, do glorious un-PC impersonations of foreigners and belt out the superb numbers.

Michael Cahill is an inspiring Dame, all quivering vulnerability and innuendo in a fruit-presser costume (designed by Josephine Sundt). But the text’s excessive knowingness over-complicates the story and the riffs are often too obtuse.

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My young companion found it a little confusing. He did want to see it again though – especially for the chance of taking part in Tina’s on-stage Tupperware competition.

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