Last night, I went to see Jack and the Beanstalk, this year’s pantomime produced by the Edinburgh People’s Theatre. Anne, my wife, plays a glittery pink fairy, making sure love wins the day against those who are determined to raise taxes and stop everyone from having a good time. Being a fairy, she speaks in rhyme – poetry not quite up to the standard of Paul Muldoon or George Szirtes, I admit – but pantomime is always enhanced by fun and doggerel, and she gives a good performance.
I was there with a group of children, who are no doubt the best judges of a pantomime, and they loved it. Unsurprising, as the baddies (the baron and his incompetent henchmen) are really bad, but not in a way liable to give kids nightmares. In fact, my lot were more than a match for the forces of evil. They booed and hissed with enthusiasm whenever the nasty threesome came near the stage, so much that in one scene the baron stared at them and said, “Go back to Broomhouse,” the area of Edinburgh where they live (he had obviously been tipped off by the fairy…), which stemmed a predictable reaction!
Jack is convincing as the naïve boy who is determined to rescue his true love (he falls in love at first sight in a hilariously over-the-top scene – never can a dialogue have contained so many romantic clichés, deliberately of course) by climbing the beanstalk and rescuing her from a ghastly dungeon. Jack’s mum, Dame Bella (brought into the production less than three weeks ago after the original dame had to pull out), was excellent – you would never have guessed he had learned all those lines and moves in so short a time.
The singing is good too and the camp soundtrack straight out of Eurovision (usually with altered words) will give the adults a good laugh. “Fly the Flag”, the UK’s Eurovision entry earlier this year, is really well done, complete with air hostess and safety demonstration. There were a few problems with the sound, the vocals being too quiet for the music during the first few songs. That was dealt with as the play went on, but the sound people might want to make sure the levels are right from the beginning in future shows.
So if you’re looking for a panto that will engage children, but also entertain adults, Jack and the Beanstalk might be what you’re looking for. Details below:
CHURCH HILL THEATRE Morningside Road, Edinburgh
12th - 22nd December 2007 (not 16th)
Evenings at 7:00pm (not 16th or 22nd);
Matinees at 2:30pm on 15th & 22nd
Tickets: £8.00, Concessions: £7.00