Jack and The Beanstalk Theatre Royal St Helens

The following review appeared in The Liverpool Echo

Many Thanks to Peter Elson who wrote

"Your flagging belief in live pantomime will be revived by this Christmas cracker of a show which played to a packed house of the young and young at heart on its opening night.

It got off to a robust start when the villainous Fleshcreep crept onto the stage and demanded of some St Helens matrons “Are you two sisters?”

On receiving their affirmative reply, he squawked in retort: “Wrong panto!”

This confirmed we were in safe hands for this very British tradition of seasonal battiness.

Fleshcreep was played with gusto by illusionist Richard De Vere, who also directed and had a nice line in local insults.

Referring to St Helens’ attributes, Fleshcreep proclaimed that the town was home to rugby and beautiful women. In an aside to another hapless audience member, he asked: “And which position do you play madam?”

Now into its eighth year of handling the St Helens’ panto, Regal Entertainments’ producer Jane Joseph once again released her now well-polished ensemble of performers on the unsuspecting glass-making town.

Other familiar and welcome faces include the energetic dancer Marc Lawlor as Spirit of the Beanstalk, Chris Cookall as Simple Simon and Gareth Wilde (still only 26!) whose performance as Dame Trott must rate as one of Britain’s best.

Mr Wilde’s day job managing a theatrical costumier means he dazzles the audience with outrageous clothes which Dame Edna Everage would die for.

The script is very good, with plenty of gags plus well-tried routines such as the ghosties and ghoulies sketch. The first half could do with some trimming, but pace picks up thereafter.

Although very traditional in concept with all the expected ingredients, the show boasts some impressive gimmicks, especially given this is a small theatre with limited resources. Richard De Vere’s flying dragon is tremendous and I loved the Benny Hill-style chase sequence film by Colin McKeown. As Mr De Vere warned us: “If you’ve not enjoyed the show – keep your gobs shut!”

On this glowing evidence such advice will not be needed. Few towns will have live Christmas entertainment of this calibre. The pantomime runs until January 13."

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