Fine family fun up beanstalk

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‘JACK and the Beanstalk’ is this year’s pantomime by the Abbey Theatre Club, and a hilarious night is provided for young and old.

The top-drawer cast clearly love what they’re doing, have years of experience playing panto, and are relishing Fiona Kerr’s excellent script.

And all react to the audience’s laughter with great skill and even more humour.

Jack Boots is played with great confidence and ability by Rachel Robertson - a perfect performance. Alan Christison plays Connie Boots, Jack’s mother and the panto dame. Again, you couldn’t ask for better casting, and during one of Alan’s many changes of dress it became apparent that he is the owner of a shapely pair of legs!

There is wonderful interplay between Connie and Simple Simon, Alan Johnston, whose facial expressions would make even the dourest theatre-goer laugh.

Cliff Cuthbertson is a believable baddie as Baron Wasteland, extracting the necessary howls and threats from the audience every time he appeared.

The two dozy characters are Petty and Cash, respectively Laura Adam and Selina King. Slapstick, idleness, incompetence - they’re all there and, like every member of the cast, they clicked with the audience from the moment they set foot on stage.

Jack’s love interest, Jill Harper, is played by Debbi Proctor, another who thoroughly knows and understands her part.

The giant is played by Jim Shaw, and huge credit to the production team for the clever way they portray him as a giant, without actually putting his head through the roof. It’s all relative ...

We must not forget Daisy the Cow, who did not put a hoof wrong. She is tenanted by Pat McInroy and Brenda Reid, whose daughter Heather is the prompter. I mention Heather here because not once during the evening did she need to say a word.

Fairy Evergreen, who makes it all come right, is played by Leigh Howard; narrator (shopkeeper) is Les Morris; Wilfred, Leslie Robb; the Magic Harp, Julia Smith; pieman and disguised fairy, Sara-Anne Masson; and bread seller, Jamie Smith.

Not a duff performance among them.

A scene with little Muppets coming from the side of the stage was brilliant. And the ultra violet sections were well above average, too.

I’ve said before that whilst a panto needs singing and dancing, too much of either can bore little minds (such as that possessed by a reviewer), but again the Abbey Theatre got it spot on, with a delightful dance early on, skilfully choreographed by Elaine Masson.

Dancers were Abbie Lawson, Holly McNee, Abby Easton, Elie Taylor, Emily Elford, Charlotte James, Bobbi Gray, Amy Hood, Hannah Christie, Rachel Stewart and Lucy Gilbert.

Chorus speaking parts were from Terri-Marie Baker and Siobhan Dear.

They say comedy is more difficult to play than straight drama. If that is true, the Abbey Theatre Club is very fortunate in having members whose skills are of such high order.

As well as writing the script Fiona Kerr produces the show, and her sister, Sandra, is stage manager. Alan Christison is assistant stage manager, and Carol Bruce is musical director.

The set was constructed by Dave Ferguson, Ian Anderson, Bob Johnston and Jim Jamieson; and painted by Caroline Pennant Jones, Dorothy Parfitt and Diane Robb.

Stage crew comprise Dave Ferguson, Ian Anderson, Jim Jamieson, Daniel Jamieson and Brian Bruce. Lighting and sound are by Stephen Gilbert, Hilary Tasker and Kaileigh Clark. Costumes are by ‘Lex, Pat, Jean, Lynn, Susie and Ginny’. Make-up is in the hands of Marie Baker, Pat McInroy, Sheila Ratcliffe and Brenda Reid. Anne Smith is in charge of publicity and Bob Sawley and friends look after front of house.

‘Jack and the Beanstalk’ will run until tomorrow (Saturday), with matinee and evening performances.

If you get a chance to see it, please do so - it is wonderful to see so many people gathered with the sole aim of making an audience laugh.

The next Abbey Theatre production will be Alan Bennett’s ‘Talking Heads’, from January 31 to February 12.