Full of joy, laughter, silliness, and participation, Jack and Jill set out to save their beloved family cow and dairy company from ruin. As they struggle to keep Fleshcreep and his tax demands at bay, distractions, hurdles, and magic ensue. Chock-full of innuendo, naughtiness, and a political slant, this is a Jack and the Beanstalk like you’ve never seen before.
A talented company has been assembled by Casting Director Lotte Hines and Director Nicholas La Barrie. Particularly strong were Emmanuel Akwafo as Dame Trott, Jodie Jacobs as Fleshcreep, and Finlay McGuigan as Simon. Akwafo is outrageous, rich with contradictions, questionable parenting choices, and as impressionable as a leaf blown by the wind. Jacobs as Fleshcreep relishes in the audience booing and commits fully to the villain persona, displaying some of the best improvisational skills of the evening while interacting with the audience. And as Simon, McGuigan possesses the boundless energy and utter sense of play that only children can muster.
The sets and costumes designed by Good Teeth are overflowing with neon colors immediately transporting the audience to the world of a children’s television show or make-believe wonderland. The design is inventive, and the beanstalk reveal is particularly impressive.
Musically, vocals were compromised by the band’s levels which seemed to dominate ahead of the interval. The most moving, audible, and harmonious of songs are saved for the second half when the audience can delight and absorb the nuance and subtleties of Leah St Alice’s Jack and Maddison Bulleyment’s Jill. The tender rapport these two builds after the interval also helps bring the show home.
Sitting amongst so many young children, I couldn’t help but be moved by the stakes with which they endowed the piece, investing their hearts and souls in the journey onstage. A lesson to take with us the next time we find ourselves cross-armed and critical before the curtain has even risen. With something for everyone, this gender-bending, all-embracing pantomime will uplift, engage, and excite all who attend.
Review Matthew Pierce Photo Helen Murray