From music hall to Jessie J – this panto Jack’s the business

by Jeremy Miles

Debra Stephenson as Jack tries to sell Daisy at the cattle market: Photo Hattie Miles

Debra Stephenson as Jack tries to sell Daisy at the cattle market: Photo Hattie Miles

Jack and The Beanstalk: Lighthouse, Poole

What a romp-along joy this show is! Bringing back Robin Cave as producer and Tom Bright as director was an inspired decision by Poole’s Lighthouse arts centre. They’re a couple of old school pros who know exactly what makes panto purr.

In their hands the headliners – actress and impressionist Debra Stephenson as principal boy Jack and Game of Thrones/The Borgias actor Patrick O’Cane as the baddie Fleshcreep – reach back to music hall and vaudeville as they battle good against evil. Yet they stay perfectly in tune with contemporary entertainment.

The audience of all ages were enthralled as Jack and his mum Dame Trott  – also played by the multi-talented  Tom Bright – fought to survive as the evil giant put the frighteners on. The enforcer in chief was O’Kane’s wonderfully creepy villain.

Dame Trott (Tom Bright) Photo: Hattie Miles

Dame Trott (Tom Bright) Photo: Hattie Miles

Faced with ruin unless they sold their cow, Daisy (quite a star turn in herself) Jack went temporarily soft in the head and flogged her for a bag of gold which of course turned out to be a mere handful of beans. A couple of years ago they’d have had a Gordon Brown joke in there but things have moved on.

Thanks to good Fairy Bow Bells (Joanne Derby) the beans sprout into a towering stalk which, with a spot of flying magic, gives Jack the means to climb to the gjant’s lair and lay waste to his evil intentions. Spurred on by his daft brother Simple Simon (Dan Looney) and their good but essentially useless King (Neil Smye) he  triumphs (of course) and wins the hand of the beautiful princess (Natalie Bush). All together now Ahhhhh!

So Poole has delivered a traditional panto that chimes with young and not-so-young minds. There’s swaggering hip-hop, smoochy love-songs and everything in between from a perfectly positioned version of Jessie J’s Price Tag to Daisy Daisy and Old MacDonald Had a Farm.

Patrick O'Kane as Fleshcreep. Photo: Hattie Miles

Patrick O’Kane as Fleshcreep.
Photo: Hattie Miles

Debra Stephenson is an assured star turn, switching seamlessly from the valiant Jack to celebrity impressionist with takes on Adele, Anne Robinson and a whole bunch of B-listers (and that’s being kind)  and of course her greatest hit, Davina. Dan Looney kept the mischief turned up to eleven and Patrick O’Kane’s Fleshcreep was a positively inspired villain heading for a fall.  There was great dancing too and for those who’ve been around the theatrical block a few times references to everything from Scrooge to Les Dawson and Roy Barraclough’s classic Cissy and Ada sketches.

A suberp family show!

*Jack and the Beanstalk plays Lighthouse in Poole until 6th January