The moral of this story, to help listeners utilise their own power, goes back 5000 years. Rooted in a group of stories classified as The Boy Who Stole Ogre's Treasure, Jack and the Beanstalk can be traced back to when Eastern and Western Indo-European languages split. Also known as 'Jack the Giant Killer', the story was later told in Norse traditions by Vikings as they raided countries.
Things are peaceful on stage until the glamorous Judy Hench (Amrou Al-Kadhi). dressed in black and purple, enters as the giant's henchman. He insists on the greeting of madam, a salutation that is respectfully returned by another gender fluid character, Dame Trott.
A Goose woman (Rebecca Craven) is further proof that you can be who you want to be in this story. Jack is the hero who ensures that bullying is banished even if it means slaying a giant. Steve Marmion's shining script celebrates diversity just like the early pantomimes did. Pantomime evolved from the Commedia del'Arte tradition that arrived in the UK with Italian immigrants in the 19th century.
The story's hero is no stranger to hardship. After selling the family cow for 5 beans, Jack regroups his life and pivots thanks to a bit of self-belief and magic wand action.
With everyone on full throttle to overcome adversity, the action thumps like a heartbeat from start to finish. Jack (Ricky Oakley) enters on a space hopper and his sister Simone (Emily Burnett) hurtles down the aisles on a scooter. The breathtaking singing from Jill (Jennifer Wakefield) and Harry Co'vert (Alessandro Babalola) is pitch perfect.
With the audience's support Jack gets stronger and becomes brave enough to ascend the beanstalk. Jack climbs in good company; the first version of the pantomime was performed by David Garrick.
Jack leads the captured children away from the giant in the thrilling second half. The transformation of overcoming a big bad bully is perfectly in place thanks to the grounded Fairy Nuff (Rebecca Lucy Taylor). So there is no need to bring your own handful of entranced beans; this immersive show showers down all you need to grow your own magic. Sweets are flung to the balcony by the charming Dame Trott (Paul Barnhill). Pithy puns keep the story on track during the pumping mega mix like ‘All I Want For Xmas is Moo' and a moment of total theatre immersion happens as big bouncy beans fall into the audience's laps.
The show reveals that things change when your fight comes back as Dame Trott takes charge at the finale. Celtic traditions centred their telling of this story around a giant who has hidden his heart in a cave. Here the audience learns about what happens when the heart is rediscovered.
The big bouncy beans that fall are larger than life, and no one is afraid to fling them back at the cow that won’t produce milk. What is done with the beans is a personal choice. It’s just knowing where and when to let go that lands the magic. A bit like life.