Everybody knows the story of
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.