Jack and The Beanstalk

Everybody knows the story of Jack and The Beanstalk. A mother and son, in financial difficulties and struggling to pay their rent, are forced to sell their beloved cow. A naïve Jack exchanges the cow for some magic beans, before his mother goes mad, and throws them out of the window. Then, something triffid-like appears overnight and all hell breaks loose.

The show is earnest and unashamed, as it should be. There is no sarcasm, no irony, and no holding back. The production seems to delight in the innuendo, audience interaction, and one-liners that we should be able to expect from a really good pantomime.

In Hackney Dale the story looks familiar, but this time around Jack is also a wannabe eco-warrior, trying to save the world from almost certain climate-related destruction. It’s a plotline that could very easily have felt like an awkward attempt to be relevant, but the Hackney Empire’s production is so fresh and funny that it’s a perfect fit. Other subjects that get a mention include Boris Johnson, UKIP, and FIFA, to name a few. There are even early-doors cameos from some very well-known newsreaders. Add to that a blend of original songs and some well-known chart hits and this show becomes one that has enough recognisable features to appeal to all ages, but also has enough surprises to prevent it from ever becoming predictable.

A thigh-slapping Jack with a grin verging on manic is joined on his climb to the top of the beanstalk by Clive Rowe’s Dame Daisy, a vocal powerhouse who had the audience eating out of the palm of her hand from the moment she made her first entrance in a cow-drawn carriage; Snowman (Kat B), a – well – a snowman who is an occasional scaredy-cat who has the audience in stitches; and Clumsy Colin (Darren Hart) and Off Her Trolley Molly (Georgie Oldman), two geeks with hearts of gold. Throughout the show the group of misfits clash with a couple of evil bugs (Jocelyn Jee Esien and Tony Timberlake) who manage to stir up the audience into a frenzy of gleeful booing, and a giant who might not be quite as evil as he’s made out to be.

The giant is, however, a fantastic creation. Standing easily as tall as two Jacks (the only way to measure anything in panto-land) the giant is one of a multitude of amazing costumes that are as weird as they are wonderful. The sets, too, are beautifully designed.The whole stage looks like it has been plucked straight from the pages of a children’s story book.

The show is earnest and unashamed, as it should be. There is no sarcasm, no irony, and no holding back. The production seems to delight in the innuendo, audience interaction, and one-liners that we should be able to expect from a really good pantomime. There's enough in the script to appeal to both parents and children. The entire cast is energetic and engaging and - while the ensemble did look a little cramped on stage at times - they were in their element.

Far from being a turkey, this is a very tasty Christmas cheese plate.

Reviews by Nicola Masters

Other Place

The Wild Party

★★★★
Hackney Empire

Jack and The Beanstalk

★★★★★

Since you’re here…

… we have a small favour to ask. We don't want your money to support a hack's bar bill at Abattoir, but if you have a pound or two spare, we really encourage you to support a good cause. If this review has either helped you discover a gem or avoid a turkey, consider doing some good that will really make a difference.

You can donate to the charity of your choice, but if you're looking for inspiration, there are three charities we really like.

Mama Biashara
Kate Copstick’s charity, Mama Biashara, works with the poorest and most marginalised people in Kenya. They give grants to set up small, sustainable businesses that bring financial independence and security. That five quid you spend on a large glass of House White? They can save someone’s life with that. And the money for a pair of Air Jordans? Will take four women and their fifteen children away from a man who is raping them and into a new life with a moneymaking business for Mum and happiness for the kids.
Donate to Mama Biashara now

Theatre MAD
The Make A Difference Trust fights HIV & AIDS one stage at a time. Their UK and International grant-making strategy is based on five criteria that raise awareness, educate, and provide care and support for the most vulnerable in society. A host of fundraising events, including Bucket Collections, Late Night Cabarets, West End Eurovision, West End Bares and A West End Christmas continue to raise funds for projects both in the UK and Sub-Saharan Africa.
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Acting For Others
Acting for Others provides financial and emotional support to all theatre workers in times of need through the 14 member charities. During the COVID-19 crisis Acting for Others have raised over £1.7m to support theatre workers affected by the pandemic.
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Performances

Location

The Blurb

After 15 years of perpetual winter the kingdom of Hackneydale is really feeling the pinch of austerity cuts. McKenna’s production follows two stories, that of young and earnest Jack and of the HUGE scary giant. Whilst Jack is tempted by a mysterious stranger into swapping the family’s trusty old cow for a handful of magic beans, the Giant’s inventions for making gold are destroying the Earth… Can Jack and his crazy mates save the day?

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