Thursday, 28 October 2021

Kenton’s version of Jack is full of beans

IT’S not Christmas without a pantomime, and this year the Kenton Theatre duly obliged with its own take

IT’S not Christmas without a pantomime, and this year the Kenton Theatre duly obliged with its own take on Jack and the Beanstalk.

Set in the fictional fairytale settlement of Ye Olde Henley Town, the show follows the relentlessly upbeat Jack (Robin Hemmings) as he looks to protect his family from the crippling taxes levied by the tyrannous Wicked Giant Blunderbore, while at the same time trying to reveal his true feelings towards Jill (Hannah Pritchard).

Written and directed by Ian McFarlane, the early scenes are chock-full of fairytale references, with Ye Olde Henley Town home to some of the best known children’s characters.

Jack and Jill are the same couple that tumbled down the hill in the nursery rhyme, while Bo Peep (Loula Geater) has been forced to sell her sheep to pay the taxes and goes on a date with Wee Willie Winkie, whose moniker hints at an embarrassing personal secret (for the adults only).

Geater also plays the benevolent Fairy Light, who helps Jack in his quest, and acts as a counterpoint to the evil Crooked Man (Thomas Ford), tax collector for the giant.

Ford puts in a star turn as the show’s villain — never shy to encourage the audience to greet him with a chorus of boos.

The show’s comedy comes in spadefuls, and most of it from double act Matt Ian Kelly and Michael Taylorson, who play Jack’s mum Dame Trott and brother Simple Simon.

Kelly is the typical panto dame — brassy, bawdy and boisterous — while Taylorson’s Simon takes simple to a new level with a hilarious sketch while on the phone to Jack.

Singing also takes a front seat in the panto — along with elaborate dance routines. Geater particularly impresses with her voice, belting out big notes throughout as both Bo Peep and Fairy Light.

Amongst the whimsy and fun for the youngsters, there was plenty for adults to enjoy too. The jokes were subtle enough to draw titters without arousing the suspicion of the children — including a rather risqué gag about the less-than-legal plants Bo Peep grows in her attic. Sly barbs were also directed at Victoria Beckham and former Henley MP Boris Johnson.

The show ends with the predictable happy ending, but audiences should watch out for the twist — as all is not as it seems in the giant’s cloud kingdom...

All in all the show is a triumph, sitting comfortably among the Kenton’s run of outstanding Christmas shows. For fans of traditional pantomime, or simply carefree and fun theatre, it is not to be missed.

Review: Jamie Presland

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