Jack and the Beanstalk – Perth Theatre

Written and Directed by Barrie Hunter

Musical Direction by Alan Penman

Rating: 4 out of 5.

If it wasn’t for the vividly bright oranges and flannel forest greens, one might be forgiven for not realising that you might not be in the Fair City but in the land of Middle Perth, of Mickle Muchty under the looming shadow of the tremendous Bein Mucklemichty mountain. Forged with a tradition for the local area, with references to the likes of Murrays or the cities’ nightlife, Perth Theatre’s Jack and The Beanstalk ploughs forth on an adventure under the wise fellowship of writer-director and Panto dame legend Barrie Hunter.

But so far, no one has been brave or daft enough to scale Beinn Mucklemichty, for both its size – and fear of the rumours of the giant living atop its peak. Well, if you thought no one would attempt the climb: you don’t know Jack. Kirsty Findlay’s (star of last year’s Gaiety Panto Jamie & The Unicorn) no-nonsense Jack loses their usual dim-wittedness under Hunter’s re-write, who instead instils Jack’s brother Jock with the penchant for making bad deals…

Findlay’s presence, as with any familiar with their musical lineage, know they’re in safe hands with Jack and the Beanstalk’s musicality and tight choreography. Climbing this mighty mountain, Hunter’s script injects a fair amount of lively humour into the second half – particularly under their wonderful performance as Lettie Lou, but there’s a cleverness in what lurks under the mountain… and it’s far more dangerous than any giant could be.

Pairing well with co-star Kimberley Mandindo, Ewan Somer’s jock brings that traditional Panto magic and audience interactions to lift the gloomiest of faces, selling the gags and japes for the younger audiences have been anticipating. Mercifully, the wordplay and jokes remain sharp despite the topical nature – a sure-fire improvement over many Pantos of a similar ilk, Jack & The Beanstalk punches high into the sky with both its lampooning jest and its ambitions. Oh, and congrats on being the first festive production we’ve seen of recent to bring back the Panto coo, with a visit from Maggie Moo. 

The dozen-strong cast brings in a catchy and conscious medley, tailored to the climate change theme, all delivering a rousing and energetic rendition of some choice classics; Hot Stuff and Hot In Here to name a couple. Findlay unsurprisingly belts it well into the audience and likely all across Perthshire with their stellar voice utilised to the fullest by Alan Penman’s musical direction.

And while the ‘giant’ may be a constant worry, the gas-guzzling machinations of Helen Logan’s steampunk aesthetic antagonist is a significant worry for Jack, Jock, and the valley. Logan relishes the part, cackling away to themselves, fidgeting and tangible in their excitement as spreading misery, and turfing the residents out to redevelop their land for profit. It all ties tightly together for Hunter’s script to deliver both commentary and entertainment, parcelling the pair together rather perfectly.

There’s undoubtedly an oversimplification at play here, but perhaps opening the conversation to young audiences supersedes the anxieties one might face at compacting generations of damage to the environment to a big green reset button. But by the second half, the gags are rolling out faster, and the plot points offer a touch more insight into Baddie’s intentions and showcase Chris Stuart Wilson’s choreography to shine as brightly as humanly possible. And bright it be under Becky Minto’s lurid, but compelling and cheerful set design which morphs into a playground of a climb for Findlay and the cast.

Perth Theatre presents a rousingly pleasant and affable production which spreads a wonderfully festive joy whilst wrapping its gifts in colourful (recyclable) packing. Hunter’s writing, while offering a bit of a fairy-tale answer, does well to raise awareness without disrupting the flow of the production. So, what does meet us at the top of the beanstalk? Snow. Snow, cheer, and an impressively joyful and engaging pantomime looking to spread cheer for one, for all, for the world.  

Impressively Joyful

Jack and the Beanstalk runs at the Perth Theatre until December 31st.

Tickets for which may be obtained here.

Photo Credit – Mihaela Bodlovic


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