Stars explained: * A production of no real merit with failings in all areas. ** A production showing evidence of not enough time or effort, or even talent, and which never breathes any real life into the piece – or a show lumbered with a terrible script. *** A good enjoyable show which might have some small flaws but has largely achieved what it set out to do.**** An excellent show which shows a great deal of work and stage craft with no noticeable or major flaws.***** A four star show which has found that extra bit of magic which lifts theatre to another plane.
Half stars fall between the ratings

Jack and The Beanstalk

Hall Green Little Theatre


If there was an award for the noisiest panto audience then Hall Green would win it hands down – I suspect those Brownies can be heard from space.

Hall Green pitches its Christmas show firmly at children and they respond with the sort of enthusiasm that must lift and deafen the cast in equal measure.

The house lights dim to cheers and as Richard Woodward’s deformed Fleshcreep creeps out the boos can be heard three streets away. This is an audience up for it in a big way.

HGLT regular Woodward revels in the role of the baddy, the giant’s henchman, although why his right hand grows from white glove, to bandaged boxing glove, to wrecking ball is never fully explained. By the end of the run he could well be carting it around in a wheelbarrow, Viz style.

Set against him in the magic stakes is Katherine Williams as the Vegetable Fairy, even fairies have a vegan option these days it seems.

She has an ooh arr West Country accent, my dears, and her magic only works on veg – although I suspect she could do fruit at a push otherwise tomatoes and marrows would be off limits as they are technically not veg but fruit.

Now as this is panto we have to have a dame, and trotting on as Dame Trot is reliable, regular and usually serious actor Jon Richardson in his first engagement in a frock, frolicking in the freedom to be a prat that damehood bestows – he could well have found his festive niche.

He/she . . . whatever . . . has two sons. There is the intellectually challenged Silly Billy, played with an air of mischievous innocence by Richard Scott, and his brother, maintaining that wonderful panto tradition of thigh slapping principal boys, Jack, played by Lauren Rote.


Family Trott, Mum, cos there is nothing like a dame when it comes to panto, played by Jon Richardson, Jack, Lauren Rote,  and Silly Billy played by Richard Scott - Pictures: Roy Palmer

And there has to be a love interest in all of this, in the shape of Princess Melanie played with sweet innocence by Anika Kambo, whose hand in marriage – presumably the rest of her comes with it – is offered to anyone who can kill Giant Blunderbore, played by James Weetman.

He appears in a neat video projection created by Daniel Robert Beaton – there being a shortage of 25ft tall actors in South Birmingham – in director Roy Palmer’s clever design using a video wall and roll on, roll off scenery.

Beaton also pops up as Melanie’s father, King Satupon, who gives cowardice a bad name when it comes to defending his subjects and his daughter from the evil giant, or anything else if it comes to that. He is also a bit of a conman when it comes to paying his loyal(ish) palace guard - come litter bearers Sgt Spick, Oliver Scott and Cpl Span, Olivia Wilson.

He is clearly enjoying himself and throws himself into the role with some clever, witty routines and a couple of maths sketches which will have had the Brownies guessing. A fun performance.

good evil

Good v evil with Katherine Williams as the vegan fairy and Richard Woodward as creepy Fleshcreep

Molly Scott pops up as the dreaded . . . rather small dragon, Puff (cue song) while Debbie Donnelly screeches in as the old hag wife of Blunderbore. She is only 21 but being the wife of an evil giant is quite aging, apparently . . . but we only have her word for it.

There is animal magic as well with a pantomime horseish cow, back by popular demand from the recent The Wind In The Willows, who, through the magic of panto, and a late arriving pair of horns which kept falling off, was transformed into . . . a horse with stick on horns.

So, the horse was banished to be replaced by Daisy the headless cow, with Millie Dodd and Maisie Jones doing the honours. Having lost her head on arrival, Daisy was to find it again backstage – and don’t we just love these little moments things going wrong in panto – its all part of the fun and the cast milked - remember it is a cow - the mistake for laughs as much as they could.

Jess Donnelly is a leading villager while Garrett Awre rings his bell as a clear voiced town crier Clarence Clanger.

John Morley’s script is simple, with a story to follow, we even have shades of King Arthur and the sword in the stone, with all the old jokes we know, love and groan at scattered through the tale like currants in a bun.

Jack and the beanstalk is always a difficult one, especially for amateur companies which don’t have the budgets of the likes of professional panto specialists Qudos. You need a beanstalk and a giant and Palmer has cleverly got around that little obstacle by his use of video projection. He is an old hand at pantoas director and performer, only hanging up his frocks last year - as a Dame I hasten to add - so knows what works and what doesn't, adding technology to the panto armoury as it comes along.


Molly Scott who doubles as sweet and innocent . . . sorry, that should be bolshie villager, and the dreaded dragon, which is sweet and innocent Puff

And as pantos go it is not too long, nor does any scene last beyond the attention span of a small child, with plenty of audience participation, oh yes his is and isn’ts, a singing battle between Dame Trott’s side of the audience and Silly Billy’s lot.

The set is deceptively simple with rotating trucks for houses and village, a sword in a stone, tree stump and even magic keys hidden in the audience, a giant killing catapult . . . well, it’s just a giant catapult really with its homicidal ambition thwarted, which means we have to have a fight between Jack and the dragon - the video game of death!!!!!!

There are a lot of costumes which look colourful and pantomimy (is that a word?), lighting adds atmosphere while sound is well balanced, competing with the Brownies without deafening everyone else.

It is unashamedly aimed at families, cub and Brownie troops, and, from the roof raising reaction it works. It is simple, has a story you can follow, and youngsters loved it, and you can’t ask for more than that. To 14-12-19

Roger Clarke


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