Jack and the Beanstalk – Review – York Theatre Royal

Jack and the Beanstalk – Review – York Theatre Royal (1)

By Kirsty Reid, December 2023

Christmas is my favourite time of year. Come December, my diary is jam-packed with seasonal activities. But my favourite festive pastime is pantomime.

Bringing the seasonal shenanigans this year was York Theatre Royal, with a fresh take on Jack and the Beanstalk.

Paul Hendy’s reworked narrative loosely follows the same plot as the original, but with a female lead at the heart of the tale.

Like Jack of old, plucky heroine Jacqueline (Jack for short) sets out to sell the family cow and ends up trading it for beans – you know how the story goes.

Throw in a mix of silliness – think zombie guards and a talking cow – and you’ve got the foundations for perfect panto…

Waltzing out on stage, Nina Wadia (Goodness Gracious Me) brings us the delightful Fairy Sugarsnap – our narrator for the evening. Wadia works wonders on the crowd, getting everyone primed and ready to partake in some festive fun.

Jack and the Beanstalk – Review – York Theatre Royal (2)


It’s not long before the belly laughs come. Big, bold and brash, Robin Simpson makes a welcome return as the loveable dame. Sporting an outrageous outfit in every scene, Simpson is brilliant as man-hungry widower Dame Trott.

With a little help from the Drone of Love, our dame soon has a fella to toy with for the evening. The (un)fortunate gent plays along with Simpson’s banter throughout the show, much to the audience’s delight.

Making her pantomime debut, Mia Overfield is fantastic as Jack. Oozing confidence on stage, Overfield comes into her own as the show goes on. Her vocals are both angelic and impressive.

With his infectious energy, Matthew Curnier is hilarious as Billy – Jack’s brother. A giant tomato balloon scene brings the most laughs.

Anna Soden brings more energy to the stage as Dave the Talking Cow. A lot of focus is put on the cow with a male name, perhaps this has been done as a nod to gender identity, or perhaps just for fun – this is panto, after all.

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Soden plays her part brilliantly. Her performance of I’m Just Dave, loosely based on Barbie’s I’m Just Ken, was especially note-worthy.

Not only are her vocals on point, Soden can also play the trumpet. And, when it comes to dancing, she’s certainly got the moo-ves (sorry, couldn’t help myself!).

One of the best things about panto, is the villain. And it’s a role James Mackenzie plays well. Trading CBeebies for the dark side, Mackenzie dominates every scene he appears in.

Unlike other panto baddies, we are given a back story to Mackenzie’s Luke Backinanger. But I won’t spoil that for you.

While all the cast are brilliant. The star of the show, for me, is Zeus the dog. The clever canine not only demonstrates some incredible tricks, Zeus also sets up Simpson for a hilarious scene which sees him partake in an obstacle course, of sorts. The pair are a match made in comedy heaven.

I came to York Theatre Royal for some festive fun and the cast certainly delivered. But of course, none of this would be possible without the talented crew – a special shoutout goes to musical director and pianist Robert Louden.

‘Jack and the Beanstalk’ is at York Theatre Royal until Sunday 7 January
images: SR Taylor Photography


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