“Mummy! This is the BEST panto EVER!” It is also the ONLY panto my six year old has ever been too. Still, quite an endorsement for Hammersmith Lyric’s ‘Jack and the Beanstalk’.
As we sat waiting in the stalls taping our feet to the music you could slice the anticipation with a great, big, pink spatula. And once the cast hit the stage it was clear they were happy in their jobs – I found myself wishing my genes had given me the ability to sing rather than warble uselessly.
This was as local as a Panto gets, and often is: the theatre becomes a football team and the audience the supporters. Hammersmith gags were bountiful but not exclusive. The put down of Hackney Empire was greeted with embarrassed laughter and boos from the ‘supporters’ followed by a cheeky, “Oh come on’ grin from Sprout played by Steven Webb. This was as far away from football as you can get – more comedy (with heckles) than arch rivalry (with chanting).
Jack and Jill fall in love, Jack – played by the delightful Rochelle Rose – climbs the beanstalk and Jill follows to rescue her (yes, it’s all one big play on words). We loved Jill (Joshua Tonks) as he shied his way around the stage in character only to burst wide open in song and dance in moments of pure relief. This guy is good. And he can dance. Mr. Fleshcreep works for Nostril (that’s the giant) who never wipes his nose but just threatens to dribble on the land of Hammersmith below. Jack’s Mum is a fine figure of a woman embodied by Howard Ward – to his obvious delight (how often does one get to dress as a woman anyway?): Moreen Drip who loves her cow Caroline but has no money for rent. You know what happens next but I bet the storybook never mentioned Zumba? All involved were dying to let rip and dance, and quite frankly, so was I.
Best character? Has to be Sprout: Jack’s mate and wannabe florist (ahem) plus narrator. Some people do just have ‘IT’. Steven Webb’s mother obviously gave birth on a stage.
My kids’ favourite moment: The sweets as they flew through the air towards us…pity we were sat in the back few rows so the little pieces of sugary goodness never quite made it. Ahh, never underestimate a four year old and a six year old: with a little stealth and speed all ‘spare’ sweeties were rapidly hovered up during the interval.
This was our first Hammersmithmas and it was everything an urban Christmas should be: top pop and contemporary tunes; dancers dancing like their pants were on fire and plenty of puns to fly over the kids heads and splat the grown-ups between the eyes.
Hammersmith Lyric has a passion for Panto: let it snow (it did) and let the sweets fly. In true Panto style, girls will be boys and boys will be girls. It’s big, colourful, and interactive and there is no escaping. The only way is to smother yourself in it.
Jack and the Beanstalk runs until January 4th 2014 for more details here