Review – Jack Off the Beanstalk – Above the Stag Theater

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Just how much booze do you need to imbibe to have a good time at an adult panto? Based on my recent experience at Above the Stag, I’d suggest at least two doubles before the interval and a second during. This all depends, of course, on what kind of stomach you have from for the vagaries of the Scratch and Sniff card. Jasmine? Pine? Oh my God … is that Stinking Bishop? PHEE-YEW!

Jack Off the Beanstalk is the opening production in Above the Stag’s new space, a railway arch about 5 minutes walk from Vauxhall Station. It’s very easy to find and not at all dodgy (no matter how much that would add to the experience, but, hey, there’s always Chariots in the other direction for the truly bereft). It was having some early days hiccups the night I went, but the bar was in full working order, the seating was comfortable enough, and the layout of the theater still worked just fine for a light-hearted show – I mean, we weren’t really expecting them to put a full sized helicopter in the rafters, were we?

Plotwise, we’ve got a hunky Jack (Chris Clynes) and his dorky brother Simon (Toby Joyce) trying to save the Trott family farm, with some help from the friendly fairy, Fanny Goblin (Stephanie Willson), and the amenable Maisie (Rosie Bennett). There’s a fair amount of rural vs urban and northern vs southern competition going on, but the corruption of people like Lord Fleshcreep (Ian Hallard, unexpectedly yummy) is universal, and ever so much more fun when he’s trying to repossess a farm so he can use it for a lame rock festival. And, bonus; we have the mockery of silly reality TV celebrities with Cillian O’Connell (the rather tasty Joseph Miller), whom you can’t help but hope will hit it off with Jack so we can watch them both kiss and perhaps take their shirts off. Phwoar! Er, or maybe that was just me.

Unfortunately the first act dragged a bit (way too much time in the farmhouse with Dame Trott (Matthew Baldwin), who was certainly funny and a good actor but didn’t have enough material), and I found myself, oddly, wishing for more songs. I was also wanting some more political jokes – oddly, something that seems even easier to slide into an adult panto than a family one, and something which I really enjoy. But I liked the gags that got us scratching the numbered smell spots on our cards, and I was having a lot of run booing Lord Fleshcreep (and watching him flirt shamelessly with the guy sat in front of me), and then the next thing you know it was the interval and I was all set for a good gossip. My guess is that since this was early in the run, it’ll probably tighten up a bit (insert joke here).

Act two pumped it up (snicker) with the introduction of “The Giant” (Steven Rodgers) who managed to ruin both my memory of what “golden” thing Jack stole from him (wasn’t it a harp?) and what exactly got him known as a “giant” in the first place (I swear it was HEIGHT!). We got the opportunity to see Jack dance around in a tiny pair of golden pants and the much more horrifying prospect of Dame Trott in a giant golden pinnie. And did I mention Kylie the Cow?

As anticipated, it all had a happy ending, especially for the various star crossed lovers. I’d say it was a good night out for everyone – except for Lord Fleshcreep – and can happily report that you did get to see the people you wanted kissing at the end. Hurrah!

(This review is for a preview performance that took place on Tuesday, December 3rd, 2013. The show continues through January 5th. Book quickly if you want to go as the groups of 5 and 10 that get block seats make it sell out long before the end of the run. And make sure you have a drink before and during the show.)

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