reviewed at the Mercury Theatre, Colchester on 30 November
Daniel Buckroyd’s take on this popular pantomime theme might be described as traditional, but with twists. So Jack (Craig Mather) is a likeable but not brilliantly intelligent village lad and Princess Jill (Madeleine Leslay) is a girl who’s not afraid to step in when the men are making a mess of things.
Then there’s Day-Z (Dale Superville), the Trott family’s pet bullock. Yes, that’s right – but, given Superville’s superb comedy timing and mime skills, I suspect that he’s the one the audience really wants to take home. The part-projected, part-manipulated Giant is a clever device of director Abigail Anderson and designer David Shields.
If Carli Norris’ Fairy Gladys is a bumbler on the side of good (she’s failed her Fairy Godmother examination yet again – a concept I seem to recall being introduced in last year’s crop of pantos), then Ignatius Anthony’s Fleshcreep is the epitome of power-hungry evil. It’s a well-balanced performance with some neat touches.
If Superville and Mather contribute much of the comedy, then Antony Stuart-Hicks’ Dotty Trott (gorgeously costumed bewigged) takes the lioness’ share. Lots of double entendres for the grown-ups, but plenty of more accessible earthy humour for the young’uns. her sidekick is Phil Sealey’s King Norbert.
Choreographer Charlie Morgan has devised some sparkling and energetic routines, with a particularly effective one in a stratosphere peopled by robots and space-travel paraphernalia. The score devised by composer Richard Reeday under musical director Dan de Cruz mixes original with audience-familiar tunes; Callum Harrower and Harrison White occupy the pit.
Four star rating.
Jack and the Beanstalk runs at the Mercury Theatre, Colchester until 20 January. Performance dates and times vary – check the box office (01206 573 948, www.mercurytheatre.co.uk) for details.
(reviewed at the New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich on 1 November)
It’s the most popular of all Jane Austen’s novels, and this is the second staging to find its way into East Anglia this atumn. Two Bits Classics is a touring company which does just what its title suggests – two actors taking on all the rôles in a dramatisation of a well-established novel.
Joannah Tincy has made the adaptation and also plays most of the women’s roles as well as Mr Bingley. She is partnered by Nick Underwood, who also presents a ferociously imperious Lady Catherine, giggle-prone Kitty and gently languishing Jane. Dora Schweitzer’s outline set – suggestions of chandelier-lit rooms, skewed fireplace and windows, flower-wreathed pergola – is echoed in the pale grey costumes, where a greatcoat fastened becomes a woman’s dress and the side-whisk of a petticoat revals a man’s breeches and boots.
Abigail Anderson is a director with the skills to make the nuances of early 19th century society as natural as those of our own times. I remeber with pleasure her productions of Twelfth Night, Much Ado About Nothing and The Merchant of Venice at the Theatre Royal, Bry St Edmunds. This staging builds on that legacy with respect for the text combined with the ability to hold the audience’s attention for the better part of three hours.
Her two actors rise to the challenge, with Tincey switching from Elizabeth to ever-complaining Mrs Bennet with a flutter of a handkerchief, to pliable Bingley and his manipulating sister with a flutter of a fan, from man-hunting Lydia twisting and mouthing a lock of hair to no-nonsense Mrs Gardiner by the addition of an elegant stole. Underwood gives us Mr Bennet with his book and pipe, the unctuous Mr Collins with a biretta, practical Mr Gardiner by the addition of a cravat and, of course, proud and prejudiced Mr Darcy.
Pride & Prejudice runs at the New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich until 2 November with a matinée on 2 November. It can also be seen at thr Marina Theatre, Lowestoft between 3 and 5 November and at the Spa Pavilion, Felixstowe on 11 November.