Can watching panto online still be a magical Christmas experience? Review on Jack and the Beanstalk at the Belgrade Theatre

Nick Le Mesurier's annual pantomime review is slightly different this year, given the Covid restrictions

Monday, 7th December 2020, 12:24 pm
Action from Jack and the Beanstalk at the Belgrade Theatre. Photo by Chloe Ely.
Action from Jack and the Beanstalk at the Belgrade Theatre. Photo by Chloe Ely.

Jack and the Beanstalk

By Iain Lauchlan

Dir Paul Gibson

Action from Jack and the Beanstalk at the Belgrade Theatre. Photo by Chloe Ely.

Belgrade Theatre

Online until December 31 2020

Tickets via the BelgradeTheatre website Homepage - Belgrade Theatre

Review by Nick Le Mesurier

Action from Jack and the Beanstalk at the Belgrade Theatre. Photo by Chloe Ely.

The Belgrade’s panto is one of the theatrical landmarks of the year. Big, bold, unashamedly flash.

This year, of course it has had to adapt to straightened circumstances. Still, this being the Belgrade you’d expect even the online version to be pretty spectacular. It is.

Following the traditional format, Jack and the Beanstalk takes us to Prickly Bottom, where the Trott family and all the villagers are under the thumb of Covid 17 ¾ and an evil giant, Blunderbore (Iain Lauchlan). Only the big bad giant isn’t so big and bad when it comes to his missus (Trish Adudu), against whom he is as meek as a lamb. She wants a new cow and a scullery maid, so he sends his evil sidekick Fleshcreep (Craig Hollingsworth) to get them. Who better than Daisy, the beautiful pantomime cow belonging to the Trott family, and Princess Alyssa (Arina Li), with whom our hero Jack (Morna MacPherson) is in love? Cue lots of songs, boom-boom jokes, some pie-in-the-face slapstick, an outrageous Dame, and some lovely dancing from the young troupe of local dancers, and

you have the lot, as familiar and as tasty as Christmas dinner.

Action from Jack and the Beanstalk at the Belgrade Theatre. Photo by Chloe Ely.

Panto is supposed to be over the top, and I was a bit worried that this online version would feel a bit awkward, like a slightly ill-fitting shoe. Instead, I found myself laughing along with the jokes, taken in by the joyful energy of the production, the dazzling sets and the great acting. If the cast and crew felt this to be at all second best, they didn’t show it.

Much of the magic is down to the dynamic duo, Iain Lauchlan and Craig Hollngsworth, who have been here before and whose relationship works as well on screen as it does on stage. Iain Lauchlan wrote and produced the show, too.

In these days when everything is the same yet everything has changed we need traditions more than ever to remind us who we are. Going online has changed but not diminished that truth one little bit.

Note – The Belgrade are hoping to stage a limited number of live performances after December 16, depending on Covid restrictions. Check online for details.