The arrival of the first pantomimes of the season always heralds the start of the real countdown to Christmas. Leeds’ Carriageworks is first of the region’s theatres out of the blocks with Jack and the Beanstalk. However, despite lavish sets and costumes, and a talented cast of panto favourites it lacks the sparkle, vitality and brash, belly-laugh humour that we have come to expect from Paul Holman productions.
It is also thin on audience participation with few opportunities to hiss, boo and shout catchphrases – with the tried and tested ghost gag failing to create a deafening din. Even pantomime favourite Jezz Edwards, as Simon, had little opportunity to get the audience to raise the roof. Couple this with a myriad technical problems and this pantomime was as hard-going to watch at times as I imagine it was to play in.
It was only when Dame Trott appeared that the production seemed to ignite, lit by Barry North’s old-style traditional dame. He is superb with his raucous humour, garish costumes and irreverent audience repartee.
When they get the chance Jezz Edwards and Steve Bruus as King Crumble are a comedy dream-team. It takes a lot to make me laugh, but the wall-papering gag, where not a word is spoken, although it’s as old as the hills, always has me in stitches. It takes skill and perfect timing and Edwards and Bruus proved themselves to be masters of just that.
Ashes to Ashes star Marshall Lancaster as Fleshcreep, took a while to get to grips with the menacing panto villain persona but when he did he was a force to be reckoned with. Janine Pardo is a spirited Princess and Allan Jay a dashing Jack, whilst Lisa Hanman’s down-to-earth no frills fairy is a joy to watch.
With great choreography and an amazing Giant Blunderbore, Jack and The Beanstalk may need to get it into shape a bit, but it’s still a great traditional pantomime and perfect for all the family.