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Oxford Playhouse - Jack and the Beanstalk

5th December 2003 to 11th January 2004.

From the Newbury Weekly News.

Full of beans

Jack and The Beanstalk, at The Oxford Playhouse, until January 11

It's that time of year again when hundreds of little people are encouraged to battle against all the big people in the audience in a song competition about pies. No contest.

The same odds are stacked against the giant in this year's Oxford Playhouse pantomime, Jack and the Beanstalk.

He may be able to eat children for breakfast, and sneeze out enough snow to freeze the land until springtime, but faced with lovey-dovey couple Jack and Jill, their mate Simple Simon, and Jack's pudding of a mother, Dame Trott, it's one-nil to the underdogs.

The formula is the same every year - the awful jokes about the council, the village threatened by poverty until a hero defeats some awesome money-grabbing villain, an adventure into a dark, dangerous place where the nasty lurking creature "behind you" runs away in terror when he sees the pantomime dame, and the chucking of sweets into the audience.

Russell Dixon (Dame Trott), Lizzie Deane (Jack) and Clive Hayward (Malice) essentially repeat their roles from previous pantos, all expert at wringing out oohs and aaaghs from the stalls and circle.

In addition Nicola Keen makes a delightfully dotty fairy, Maxine Gregory is a silkily sexy Jill, reciting advice from assertiveness training sessions and Daniel Redmond hams it up amusingly as Simon.

Much of the excitement in the production hinges on the spectacular beanstalk that inflates to the height of the ceiling in seconds.

My colleague Max writes: 'I enjoyed all it of it. There wasn't anything I didn't like. The giant was scary and looked just like a giant! I liked Malice (Hayward) who was scary as well. My favourite in the play was Daisy the Cow.

'I have a sword like Jack's that goes 'ching'. I liked all of the songs and I liked the twirly lights. I pulled the silliest face when we had to save Simon and Jill from the Giant. The beanstalk was really good'.

JON LEWIS and MAX OLIVER (aged four)