Yesterday, I was fortunate enough to be invited along to go and see this year’s pantomime (Jack and the Beanstalk) at the Lyric Hammersmith, London.
Yes dear reader, I too queried whether going to see a pantomime in November was going to be a good idea or not, but I needn’t have worried – the production was fantastic and has helped to really kick off my festive season – hurrah!
I went to see the show with my friend Adam, and the best way that we could think of to describe the production was that it was like the old pantomime games that they used to have the contestants play on the Generation Game in days gone by. Lovingly able to send itself up, helped along in this department by fabulous pantomime dame Ms. Wendy Windsor (played by the accomplished musical theatre star Martyn Ellis), this pantomime had a real community feel to it and, perhaps unusually, had a decent amount of content in it for the adults too. Adam and I both work in the industry and, like most adults, were perhaps a little jaded about watching panto at first, but by the Interval we were already raving about it.
As you would expect, the plot is a little weak, but then that’s not what you go for really, is it? Considering the average age of the audience, fun is, rightly, the top priority! All the expected elements are in there; the usual pantomime chants, some lovingly ripped off songs, a good old audience sing-a-long, and one and a half pantomime cows!
I really liked the staging on this production, but nothing impressed me more than Gog, the Giant. His presence is achieved through a huge puppet on the stage, the attention to detail on which was remarkable – twitching ears, blinking and a nose that kept wrinkling, all above-and-beyond what I’d expect from a pantomime set.
Only one part of the show made me (physically!) cringe – when hundreds of green beans (ok, balls!) dropped from the balcony into the stalls and the cast asked everyone to chuck them back to them. As you can no doubt guess, your average five year old cannot throw that far, so I did end up being hit on the head quite a bit heh! A health and safety nightmare no doubt, but still rather fun.
One thing that perhaps does need to be addressed was how they get rid of the handkerchief rope that is trailed through the audience. It was somewhat disruptive for the audience themselves to have to pull it back through the stalls – it may just be easier for them to achieve this with a selection of people going on stage instead?
Cast wise, I thought this production was superb! I really enjoyed watching Martyn Ellis as Wendy Windsor (and what remarkable frocks!), and also really enjoyed watching Sean Kearns as Plug. I thought that Martyn Ellis managed to come up with some great one liners, especially when it came to reading out the birthday list, and is guaranteed to keep the adults entertained. I frequently found myself comparing the characters of Wendy and Plug to Edna and Wilbur in Hairspray heh! I also enjoyed watching Angela Wynter as super baddy Evelyn Greedly. Of course, it’s not just the leads who are fabulous though, the entire cast are great and really bring some vibrance to the production.
This pantomime is currently on the top 20 Christmas shows to see list for both The Telegraph and The Times, and on the top 12 list for the Evening Standard and I can really see why. Yes, do the normal thing and go and see a big budget all-star cast in the West End, but you’d really be missing out if you didn’t also spare a little time this Christmas to head on down to the Lyric Hammersmith and see this production – by far the best pantomime I’ve seen in a long time!
Jack and the Beanstalk will play at the Lyric Hammersmith until 9th January 2010.
T’is marvelous to see pantomine at such a great venue, and after what I am informed is a 30 year absence, plus it’s very well priced too, with Adult tickets starting from as little as £10 (kids under 16 are just £10 too)!
Incidentally, for anyone in Swansea, I’d recommend you head down to the Swansea Grand this season to see my friend Adam in panto (Sleeping Beauty – he plays the King I believe) and do let me know if he was any good! 😉