Jack and the Beanstalk

Ayr Gaiety

three stars


Perth Theatre

four stars

Fanfares, and mighty respect, for Ayr Gaiety, staging its first ‘in-house’ panto since the venue re-opened in 2012. The result is an upbeat ‘something for everyone’ show, which runs to over two-and-a-half hours – but the funny business (that can even get slapstick messy) and the funny patter (that keeps blue notes to a family-friendly level) has the audience enthusiastically onside throughout.

Gavin Jon Wright is a hugely likeable, goofy Jack, arms and legs in a hyperactive twist as he tries NOT to tell Fiona (Jillian Cunningham) that he loves her. She is likewise smitten, and similarly keeping her feelings to herself. No such reticence from their respective parents:Sir Hector (David McGowan) is in any case prone to verbosity while Dame Trott (Chris Forbes) has a flirtatious bent.

The evil Sluggie would stymie such romancings by dishing them up to the Giant. Karen Bartke glowers gleefully, a Glesca’ Goth with rascally attitude – it takes Fairy Bluebell (Kirsty Malone) to outface her, and help Jack win the day, and Fiona. Co-writers Ken Alexander and Fraser Boyle have brought a lovely local flourish to panto traditions, it’s a really good-looking production – a hopeful sign for Gaiety pantos of the future.

EEK! Tayside’s beavers are under threat! The glam Vindicta (Helen Logan) would rather develop luxury shopping malls than conserve small furry creatures or their habitat.

Clearly, this Sinbad isn’t out of the Arabian Nights: it springs, with eco-friendly credentials, lots of well-crafted tomfoolery and sharp-witted repartee, from the imagination of writer/director Barry Hunter who also plays Dame Jackie Alltrades with gusto, and a dash of sassy cheek.

Daughter Sinbad is tired of exploring, son Finn Lad is seriously bookish – can they really help pigtailed eco-warrior Greta save the beavers from Vindicta? Panto tradition cleverly embraces 21st century ideology and it’s a fun-for-all show full of musical numbers, entertaining mayhem and some cutesy wee beavers.

Mary Brennan