This year’s Chipping Norton pantomime Jack & The Giant is a delightful take on the British fairy-tale, Jack & The Beanstalk. It’s a very traditional show, with a classic pantomime cow and generous sweet-throwing all included.A new inclusion to the panto this year was live music provided by the cast of multi-talented actor-musicians who played a variety of instruments on and off stage. Although the little stage at The Theatre did get a bit clogged up with the assortment of instruments, they really added to the atmosphere and the homemade charm.
The music itself was great, but the lyrics were not always as good. A song about austerity stuck out partly because, you know, we’re sitting in the centre of Chipping Norton, but also because the show shied away from any other potential modern day references. Most of the heroes and dames in pantomimes will be poverty-stricken, the form dictates it, and so the austerity song would probably have been built-in no matter what the current economic situation is, but it was an awkward inclusion nonetheless as one of the only half-nods at the modern day. However, one of the last songs, which saw the cast cha-cha-cha, waltz and rock’n’roll to save their lives made up for this entirely and was hugely entertaining.
Jack & The Giant will appeal to CBeebies fans – Jack & Dame Trott’s village even looked a bit like the technicoloured Balamory! It’s a cheery harmless affair without much booing, probably because neither the nasty King nor the angry Giant was really very scary. Not that this matters, as everything is made all a bit too cute for any evil nonsense thanks to the Pippins – the 4 young company performers who almost steal the show as creepy goblins or tiny cows.As for the grown up characters, Richard Emerson’s King Bertram was the human embodiment of Lord Farquaard from Shrek: greedy, cowardly and comically short (so much so that I feared he or someone else would trample over his too-long velvet cape at several points – perhaps it should be built in as a gag?). The Buttons character, Simple Simon, was my favourite; he was absolutely adorable and a very shy, gentle sidekick to the dame, channeling Michael Crawford’s iconic 70s TV character Frank Spencer throughout his performance.
A quaint and endearing pantomime, Jack & The Giant is the perfect Christmas treat for the littlest of children to the oldest of grandparents and every conga-loving person in between.