Paul T Davies reviews Jack and the Beanstalk, this year’s Christmas offering from the Mercury Theatre Colchester.
Jack and the Beanstalk
Mercury Theatre, Colchester
30 November 2018
The Mercury Theatre is currently undergoing an £8.4m refurbishment, which will result in a beautiful building, bringing all their resources under one roof in 2020. They may be wise to consider putting on a new roof because if it keeps getting raised by a roaring audience like the press night for Jack and the Beanstalk, they’re going to need a new one! This wonderful pantomime ticked every box, corny jokes, risqué jokes, fantastic audience participation, a terrific score and a cast that share their joy of being on stage.
We have been blessed in Colchester for a few years with the pairing of Anthony Stuart-Hicks, for my money the best Dame in the business, and Dale Superville, a bundle of comedy talent. They have become somewhat of a tradition at the Mercury, and they work so well together. Dame Trott is a joy, and Stuart-Hicks loves an older audience, although his jokes always stay on the right side of naughty, never crude- although I’m always relieved when he picks on other men in the audience! Just when I think they will never beat last year’s panto, Superville is Day-Z the cow. That’s right, Dale Superville is playing the cow this year! He raps, he is funky, children adore him and he provides paroxysms of mirth without, seemingly, any effort. As Jack, (his brother from another udder), Craig Mather is adorable as the clumsy hero, in love with Madeleine Leslay’s excellent, feisty, Princess Jill, and Ignatius Anthony is a crowd-riling delight as the villain Fleshcreep. Carli Norris gets the audience on side with her sweet Fairy Godmother- in- training Gladys, and Phil Sealey, for me, almost stole the show as King Norbert, especially with his hilarious impersonation of R2D2! (His beard should also have its own Twitter account!)
The music, under Musical Director Dan de Cruz, is a fabulous mash-up of new and old classics, and the end of the first half, featuring a mix of Queen’s Flash, ( to the tune of Jack!) and Bohemian Rhapsody, is, quite simply, the best panto first-half finale I have ever seen. In the second half, we are in a Star Wars universe, which I found a bit strange at first, but the cast dive deep into it, and it provides more joyous moments than you can shake a light sabre at! Daniel Buckroyd’s script is wonderfully contemporary, and, in the age of a female Doctor Who, Princess Jill is no wailing heroine, she is in the thick of it! The workshop have created superb sets, the design by David Shields is jaw-dropping- the giant being a particular highlight.
When panto is this good you don’t want it to end, but director Abigail Anderson keeps things moving well- for now- already the corpsing is kicking in! The Mercury has done it again, with a show that will leave you laughing long after you leave the auditorium. Quite simply, a triumph!
Until 20 January 2019