Jack and the Beanstalk – Review – Bradford Alhambra
Jack and the Beanstalk – Review
Bradford Alhambra, December 2015
by Sandra Callard
It’s pantomime time again, and Yorkshire has more than its fair share of brilliant shows at this time of year. I went along to the Bradford Alhambra to see if this year’s offering came up to its usual high standard.
There was a terrific atmosphere inside the theatre foyer as Santa Claus arrived for the kids, and an extremely competent local children’s choir was singing a beautiful and accomplished selection of songs, which was very impressive, particularly as some of the children were junior school age.
This time we have Jack and the Beanstalk and, for what seems like a never-ending treat, the brilliant Billy Pearce is again on hand for the funny bits – and funny bits there are, in spades. Every year I think I may be too sophisticated for pantomime but nevertheless compelled to put it to the test, and if I happen to light on Billy Pearce, I am a lost cause. This man has found his forte in pantomime, and there are none better. The children are on a par with him all the way, and the adults happily accept his cheeky asides that fly over the children’s heads.
Supporting Pearce is Lisa Riley of Emmerdale and Strictly Come Dancing fame. She does Billy proud as the Spirit of the Beans. Riley is an endearing and engaging character who doesn’t take herself too seriously. She is obviously enjoying her role. At the other end of the spectrum we have the vastly experienced actor John Challis. Best known for his long years as Del Boy’s associate Boycie on Only Fools and Horses. He the villain of the piece, Fleshcreep. Suitably hateful, he’s the nasty, gloriously horrible character who gets plenty of traditional booing from the kids, with most of the parents joining in as well.
The Bradford Alhambra is famous for its perpetual Sunbeams, who have been part of the panto season since it’s inception. This year they include children from the Sara Packham Theatre School, and are a joy to watch. The scene where Jack has to take his farm animals to market is superb. This is mainly due to the wonderful animal costumes. But the antics of the children in costume is particularly clever and endearing.
“Laughter and joy”
This year the kaleidoscope of colours and lights are more extravagant than ever, and the special effects are just about the most exciting visuals I have ever seen in pantomime. They include an amazing 3D giant in his castle up the beanstalk, for which special glasses are required and issued. The beanstalk itself really does grow, and Pearce’s character, Jack, displays a new and wonderfully unexpected way of getting to the top of it.
Some people may regret the advance of technology into such a traditional affair as pantomine. We are the only country in the world which offers this yearly, seasonal entertainment. But I would disagree. Particularly in the case of this meticulous production. It does indeed have tremendous new technical effects, but it also carries every one of the essential elements of the English pantomime. The show is in turn comical, rude, scary and loud. It offers colour, escapism, music and dance. But most of all it promotes laughter and joy. Not too easy to do these days, but this Jack and the Beanstalk does it in great style.