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Jack and The Beanstalk at Theatre Royal, Windsor

Published by: Kate Braxton on 8th Dec 2016 | View all blogs by Kate Braxton

My introduction to pantomimes at this theatre began 35 years ago, and many’s the dreamy day I wish I was eight again. Windsor describes its festive offering as a ‘traditional’ pantomime, and there’s no hiss or boo back at that claim; this production is a wholesome, wobbly-sceneried bundle of Christmas joy for the kids, packed into a ‘bra made for 3 boobs’ for the adults. And such a reminder of how tricky it is to provide something for everyone, which this art form depends upon for success.

For the 40 Something of Berkshire, the hangover of Blue Peter waving its Anthea Turner-shaped wand as Fairy Destiny coupled with Timmy Mallett’s never-ending quest for revival tick the panto predictability boxes. Everybody say Bleuugh,’n all that. But I gleefully report that in balance with this are fresh talent in the young leads, lesser-known-but-regular comic favourites on the Windsor stage, popular contemporary musical numbers and some original writing.

Jack and The Beanstalk follows Jack Trott and love interest, Princess Jill, whom he must gallantly save from beastly Giant, Boris Blunderbore, boomed to Beaconsfield and back by Brian Blessed. Luke Harley’s Jack is thoroughly likeable. He has a good singing range, and before his slightly class nerdy rendition of Justin Timberlake’s Can't Stop The Feeling brings on too much of an unwanted feeling, he shines with his solo performance in Act 2.  All in all, charming. However, Anna Campkin’s extraordinary vocals as Princess Jill are worth considerably more than his bag of beans.  

(Simple) Simon Trott leads the audience participation, and Kevin Cruise knows how to effortlessly work the British audience, as a past finalist of Britain’s Got Talent. He’s a glory on stage, working out in a leotard like a cross-dressing Boris-Johnson-meets-Donald-Trump, who magically feels like the best friend everyone wants at a party. His double act with Steven Blakeley as Dame Tilly Trott is deep joy, and these two are the backbone to the flow and intention of the pantomime script. It has some inspired touches, alongside a few moments that don’t achieve the laughs they are seeking, but it feels like an overall success.

I will reach the most sublime, sensual and wicked hiss and boo momentarily, but I feel the need to drop in one panto-goer moan, because if anything could possibly crack the brilliance of this all-round success, it is the shameless commercial sales splurge in the script. A panto can be spoilt by extraneous stuff we don’t need to know. Joe Windsor doesn’t care that The Dame wrote the panto. And we don’t need a giant reveal to advise that Jason Gardiner has been seen on ITV. Even if it’s in the contract, ad lib out of it and give him the credit he’s due for being a successful artist. And finally, Timmy’s small pink mallet may well be on sale in the foyer, but I’d rather find that out and bang it on the counter for myself, thank you. My bad... 

...Oh no I’m not. Because THE Best Bad Guy in Berkshire is Gordon Fleshcreep played by Jason Gardiner, the jugular jackknifing judge from Dancing on Ice. Gardiner is an inspiration and a celebration: he sings, dances and characterizes like the most salacious nightmare anti-hero you’ve perversely ever wanted to remember.


For a frock-filled frollick of a time out with gunk, singalongs, dancealongs, bog roll bouncing, kids trying to remember the moves, a snippet of Frozen and an almost-Brexit-free belly of laughs, rock up to Theatre Royal Windsor this Christmas.


Reviewed by Kate Braxton


Jack and The Beanstalk is running Thursday 1st Dec - Sun 8th Jan
Ticket prices: £17 - £34, Royal Specials £40- £42
For more info or to book: 01753 853888





1 Comment

  • Cameron Lowe
    by Cameron Lowe 1 year ago
    Thanks, Kate! I sooooo wish that this wasn't 500 miles away from home!!
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