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Julia Pattison
Theatre Correspondent
1:00 AM 14th December 2023
arts

A Fe-Fi-Fun Extravaganza At York

 
(L-R) Luke Lucas, Lauren Richardson, Khan Rasul, Nina Wadia, James Mackenzie, Matthew Curnier, Mia Overfield, Anna Soden, Robin Simpson, Emily Taylor, Charlotte O’Sullivan and Chris Morgan-Shillingford.
(L-R) Luke Lucas, Lauren Richardson, Khan Rasul, Nina Wadia, James Mackenzie, Matthew Curnier, Mia Overfield, Anna Soden, Robin Simpson, Emily Taylor, Charlotte O’Sullivan and Chris Morgan-Shillingford.
Writer Paul Hendy from Evolution has teamed up once again with Director Juliet Forster from York Theatre Royal to produce their third pantomime together, Jack and the Beanstalk, which promised to be a Fe-Fi-Fun extravaganza for all the family. Paul took a fresh approach to the story, including a most engaging backstory for this year’s villain, Luke Backinanger, played with great zeal by James Mackenzie. Whether or not this villain will be "Back For Good" remains to be seen, but it was a unique idea and very entertaining.

It was good to see Robin Simpson back in his role as the dame, this time as Dame Trott, Jack’s mother, but I feel he needs to have a much more dramatic first appearance. It was just announced, "And here’s the Dame." An opportunity to build up the usual sense of anticipation of the Dame’s entry was missed. However, Robin’s banter with selected audience member Paul after the inspired Drone of Love Quiz Scene was great entertainment, and he was on top form, leading lots of banter and ad-libbing amongst the talented cast, particularly when things went awry on stage, all adding to the atmosphere of fun.

The Dame’s costumes (Michael J. Batchelor, Hazel Fall) didn’t disappoint and were wonderfully creative. One especially struck the right key.

Nina Wadia 
 S R Taylor Photography
Nina Wadia S R Taylor Photography
Anna Soden was a "Moo" vellous Dave the Talking Cow, and a natural on stage, as well as having a beautiful singing voice. Nina Wadia was a delight as Fairy Sugarsnap, and Mia Overfield shone as Jack or Jacqueline and sang like an angel. Matthew Curnier fizzed with fun as high-fiving Billy and came into his own in a hilarious giant tomato balloon scene—never seen anything like that before!

The sets were stunning, along with amazing costumes and dazzling dancing from the energetic Ensemble cast, including Chris Morgan-Shillingford, Charlotte Rose O’Sullivan, Khan Rasul, Lauren Richardson, Emily Taylor, and Luke Lucas.

Anna Soden
Anna Soden
"The Boy Rob" (aka Musical Director/Piano Robert Louden) and his band added their musical magic to the action on stage throughout the panto.

The weather-related Slapstick scenes were brilliant, and it was great fun anticipating which weather song was coming up next.

The aww factor in the show was definitely the Canine Cast member, Zeus, a distinguished border collie trained by Anna Auster, making his stage debut. Zeus stole the show with his antics, and our ditzy Dame dazzled alongside "her" furry friend in the Dog Training Obstacle Course—we haven’t laughed so much in ages.

No spoilers, but look out for a scary giant who isn’t all that he seems...

A fabulous finale completed a fun-filled evening.


Jack And The Beanstalk continues at York Theatre Royal until 7 January 2014

Zeus and Robin Simpson  
S R Taylor Photography
Zeus and Robin Simpson S R Taylor Photography