Jack and the Beanstalk review – sumptuously OTT panto has a big heart

Lyric Hammersmith, London
A streetwise Jack sells his cow for a tin of baked beans in this sugar rush of a show, which is underpinned with an anti-greed moral about the collective good

Your ears will ring, your heart will sing. Not for the Lyric the genial unfolding of a well-loved folk tale with added knockabout business and the odd show-stopping set piece. This loud, front-foot Jack and the Beanstalk is nine-tenths set piece; a production, by Nicholai La Barrie, machine-tooled for uplift. Who needs interval ice creams? The show is all sugar rush.

And dairy product, too. The setting is Dame Trott’s World of Milk (“Whatever the situation, we’ve got your lactation”), a family business threatened by fiendish Fleshcreep and his unpayably high taxes. That’s why Jack must sell his beloved cow Daisy – even if it’s a stretch that, with Jack so streetwise and smart, he does so for a can of baked beans. No matter – with a wand-wave from secret fairy godmother Jill (Maddison Bulleyment supplying the show’s big heart) – Jack and fam are soon ascending vegetation to Fleshcreep’s celestial mancave. There they encounter a giant that’s two parts industrial refuse facility to one part fairytale ogre.

Finlay McGuigan as Simon and Leah St Luce as Jack.
Charismatic performances all round … Finlay McGuigan as Simon and Leah St Luce as Jack. Photograph: Tristram Kenton/The Guardian

What we don’t encounter is any of the topical satire that characterised last year’s Lyric panto. In its place, charismatic performances all round, from Emmanuel Akwafo as the drama-queen dame, Finlay McGuigan as hapless Simon, dreaming himself the show’s star, and Jodie Jacobs (“mwa-ha-ha!”) as Fleshcreep. There’s top-notch deployment of the EastEnders sting when the latter’s identity is revealed, and sumptuously OTT costumes from design studio Good Teeth.

A moral underpinning is supplied when, as our hero hoovers up geese and golden harps from the baddie’s lair, Jill invites Jack to consider collective not individual gain. By uniting the whole theatre in good cheer, this Jack and the Beanstalk doesn’t just talk the talk, it walks the walk.

At Lyric Hammersmith, London, until 7 January


Brian Logan

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Jack and the Beanstalk – review

Lyn Gardner: It's full of politics, in-jokes and localism, but this year's Lyric panto is underpowered and lacks a narrative focus – three beans

Lyn Gardner

04, Dec, 2013 @12:44 PM

Article image
Jack and the Beanstalk | Theatre review
Lyric Hammersmith
This mishmash production of Jack and the Beanstalk is most alive when Martyn Ellis's jovial dame is roguishly delivering her one-liners, writes Michael Billington

Michael Billington

30, Nov, 2009 @10:15 PM

Article image
Cinderella review – woke meets trad at pop panto
Prince Charming? You must be joking – but this show will still leave families and festive fun-seekers satisfied

Brian Logan

25, Nov, 2019 @2:50 PM

Article image
Jack and the Beanstalk review – the climate crisis reaches panto season
The beanstalk in Barrie Hunter’s jolly, tightly choreographed and on-message show is actually a fossil fuel mountain, and the giant is a massive polluter

Mark Fisher

27, Nov, 2022 @11:10 AM

Article image
Jack and the Beanstalk review – panto season’s not yet behind you!
Stephen Joseph theatre’s filmed seasonal offering is a proper winter warmer with some off-the-wall touches

Chris Wiegand

18, Jan, 2022 @11:36 AM

Article image
The Scouse Jack and the Beanstalk review – perfect panto for tough times
Cow jokes are heavily milked in this family-friendly show, alongside nods to the city’s star turn as next year’s Eurovision host

Mark Fisher

17, Nov, 2022 @10:09 AM

Article image
Jack and the Beanstalk review – online panto is fee-fi-fo-fun
An irrepressible Iain Lauchlan leads a trip to Prickly Bottom, where songs, toilet humour and Joe Wicks gags abound

Chris Wiegand

04, Dec, 2020 @5:15 PM

Article image
Jack and the Beanstalk review – Clive Rowe is a giant among panto dames
Tweenies writer Will Brenton packs this festive frenzy with all the kids’ favourite flourishes, but there isn’t much for the adults beyond Rowe’s delightful Dame Trot

Miriam Gillinson

03, Dec, 2021 @11:35 AM

Article image
Jack and the Beanstalk review – bright and cheery but lacking heart
What used to be one boy’s coming-of-age struggle with a tyrannous ogre is now a free-for-all

Mark Fisher

24, Nov, 2019 @1:49 PM

Article image
National Theatre reopens to stage panto for second time in its history
Dick Whittington presented in new in-the-round season that includes sequel to hit football play Death of England

Chris Wiegand

17, Sep, 2020 @10:52 AM