Jack and the Beanstalk II

Eastwood Park Theatre, Glasgow

four stars

Jack and the Beanstalk

Paisley Arts Centre

three stars

Here are two shows that fly a very jolly, roguish flag for small-scale, local panto. At Eastwood Park Theatre, writer/composer Andy McGregor and director Julie Brown have concocted a wonderfully bizarre sequel to Jack and the Beanstalk, subtitled ‘Return of the Farmer’.

This down-at-heel whiskery yokel - Ross Mann, serving up grungy ‘ooh-aarr’ menace - knows that Jack’s business empire owes its success to... shhh! the Golden Goose he stole from the Giant. Now the Farmer wants serious hush money or Daisy the Cow is for the chop.

Mind you, the sweetie-bearing Witch ( Sarah McCardie) might stake/steak a rival claim, there. Bits and bobs of other fairy-tales weave in and out in a lively script that cocks a mischievous snook at panto conventions while keeping faith with the tradition that good will triumph over evil.

No ‘snog’n’sog’ however - sassy Alice (Kim Allan) gives smitten, middle-aged Jack (Joshua Aitken) the knock-back on account of him being too old. But since Jack now has Daisy - his first real love - back again, it amounts to a happy ending for all, including us.

The Paisley stage may be decidedly small, but PACE Theatre’s full-on production manages to pack an impressive beanstalk, a very large (and mobile) Giant and an energetic cast of young local performers onto it – along with a rorty Dame (Chris Alexander), a doolally sidekick, Sam (Paul Kozinski) and a wicked Queen with a very evil laugh (Laura Szalecki).

The snash and patter works for tinies as well as grown ups, the hiccup-y romance between shy Jack (Euan Bennet) and independent-minded Jill (Erin Hair) body-swerves smarm and becomes a will he/won’t he running gag that adds to the good-natured panto fun. PACE pantos have always had a tremendous home-grown charm – this one ticks that box with enthusiasm.

Mary Brennan