Jack and the Beanstalk

Theatre, Panto
Recommended
4 out of 5 stars

Time Out says

4 out of 5 stars

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This bonkers panto spectacular is full of beans.

Hackney Dale has been covered in snow for 15 years because a golden harp has been sucking the energy from the sun and the stars in order to make gold for a giant. Mother Nature is pissed because earth is going to pot. Yes, it’s the eminently rational world of Hackney Empire’s panto. 

It may tick the same boxes each year - outrageous costumes, stonking songs, Kat B - but even after 17 years writing and directing the show, and with a nod to all the great panto traditions, Susie McKenna has an knack for making the Hackney panto feel absolutely fresh. 

The easy stand-out is Clive Rowe’s Dame. It’s not just Lotte Collett’s extraordinary costume designs that make Rowe such a faux-feminine force, it’s also the way he brilliantly berates a young guy in the audience with quick wit and thick, lurid layers of lippy. With more than a hint of Les Dawson, Rowe pouts and gurns his way through the show, effortlessly dominating the stage and occasionally showing off his mighty voice.

In fact every spare second is stuffed with a snatch of song. With so much going on, it sort of forgets there’s a plot - we only see the beanstalk seconds before the interval. But then 'Jack and the Beanstalk' doesn’t have much of a plot, so it’s every credit to McKenna for introducing so much wondrously outside-the-box magic to it. 

There are unnecessary elements in the mix too: Kat B’s Snowman character, despite oodles of bouncy energy, doesn’t add much to the story. But the show has plenty for local audiences and panto purists alike, held together by an incessant and delightful bizarreness. The sight of Robert Peston shouting ‘you know nothing Jon Snow!’ to the Channel 4 newscaster is worth the ticket price alone. 

BY: TIM BANO

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By: Tim Bano

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