Jack and the Beanstalk

Beacon Arts Centre, Greenock

Mary Brennan

four stars

They’re back! The irrepressible Beacon Four – Jimmy Chisholm, Lee Samuel, Mark Cox and Jane McCarry – return in more panto-savvy cahoots where clear story-telling, daft business and all shades of funny patter add up to a hugely entertaining family show. The team behind this good-looking pantomime, writer Alan McHugh and producers Imagine Theatre, understands the value of traditions – and how to keep them fresh.

Hurrah! Daisy the Cow actually features in comedy moments, and isn’t just trundled on and off in exchange for those beans. And what a dramatic surprise when the Giant emerges – not a projection, not a fixed animatronic, but a walking/talking character who interacts with Jack (Michael Karl-Lewis) as the rest of the posse escape. Meanwhile, silliness prevails as Jane McCarry comes over cod-posh as Queen Grizelda, determined to keep daughter Apricot (Kim Allan) from marrying a poor commoner like Jack.

Luckily Apricot is equally determined to defy her! Mind you, Grizelda has her own susceptible side... and it favours a bit of bad boy rough. Enter Fleshcreep (Mark Cox), with some prowly-growly menaces that are often verging on the ridiculous – but just might, at the drop of a punchline, turn deadly serious. Oo-er...will Fairy Flora’s magic help banjax his schemes? Or will Fairy Flora (Ashley Andrew) get distracted by her surging emotions?

Dear Fairy Flora, the audience – wee ones in particular – are ahead of you: they all fell for Lee Samuel’s goofy, doolally Simon from the moment he grinned at them and said, ‘Hiya pals!’

All this romance in the air – and single fish Dame Trot (Jimmy Chisholm) is putting on a brave face, some garishly outlandish frocks and delivering a mix of mischievous sauciness and sair trachled wee wumman. Chisholm is, as ever, a Dame to delight in. The musical numbers are handsomely done, the whole company is full of gung-ho beans – lucky Greenock, it’s a cracker of a show.