Jack and the Beanstalk, Horsham
Magic tricks, cow comedy and a hilarious chase sequence - catch this year's Horsham panto.
There are giant beanstalk tendrils and pods in the lobby at The Capitol and entwined round the stage. Combined with a sugar rush from the pick-n-mix this has my eight-year-old nephew full of excited anticipation or should I say full of beans before the curtain’s even up on this year’s Horsham panto – Jack and the Beanstalk.
“It’s all songs,” he whispers in a concerned voice a few minutes in, giving me a flashback to when my other half managed to get as far as actually sitting in the audience for Priscilla Queen of the Desert before he realised it was a musical.
Our dame and daisy the cow are soon on stage however and he settles in happily, giving me chuckled asides … “ha ha past-your-eyes-ed”… “ha ha princess Apricot….” and a messy slapstick scene involving an ice-cream factory has us both belly laughing.
I hadn’t seen Jack and the Beanstalk as panto before but all the ingredients are there – an oversized villian, a brave but sometimes stupid hero, a loveable cow and magic.
For the adults, the cow-selling scene is transformed with Brexit puns. There’s also fun with panto conventions: “everyone knows nothing really scary happens unless there’s a bench on the stage!” Many of the songs in the show are also ’80s hits with the words altered, playing perhaps on grown-up’s nostalgia.
I won’t spoil the surprise by revealing how the beanstalk bursts out of a compost box and grows skywards but it’s an impressive effect which ends act one on an err high (geddit?)
In the second half comes my favourite part of the show, a fantastic chase sequence involving various visual gags and a romp through the audience that has the woman next to me beside herself with laughter even before Dame Dolly Trott (played ably by Hywell Dowsell) pinches some of her popcorn. Then, a magic trick towards the end of the show makes my nephew and I both gasp.
Brian Blessed’s voice from above the stage creates the illusion of a fantastically booming giant and we do get to see an onstage giant in Act Two. Children’s TV presenter Chris Edgerley stars as baddie Fleshcreep, portrayed with a touch of Johnny Depp in Pirates of the Caribbean about him that’s a bonus for the women in the audience.
Bespectacled Fairy Potter (Jill Greenacre) makes plenty of kid-pleasing Harry Potter references. Lauren Osbourn who plays Princess Apricot has an impressive belter of a voice and does a strong rendition of Bonnie Tyler’s I need a Hero (though I would rather the female lead wanted to be a hero herself!)
Jack (Olly Pike from Children’s TV’s Trapped) and brother Simple Simon (James Fletcher from Hollyoaks) are played with plenty of exuberant bounce and I thought Richard Alan as the king had particulary good stage presence.
There’s a good rake on the seats at the Capitol so youngsters get a decent view over the heads in front, especially with the booster seats available in the lobby. The programme has several puzzles which is handy for keeping fidgets amused before curtain up.
We were still giggling on the drive home over our favourite joke of the show involving a broken bottom that my nephew has re-enacted for a series of family members since. Just wish I knew how they did that magic place swapping trick, then we’d really wow the family on Christmas day.
Jack and the Beanstalk is at The Capitol, Horsham until Sunday 31 Dec. Tickets are from £11. thecapitolhorsham.com