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The Anvil - Jack and the Beanstalk

10th December 2015 to 3rd January 2016.

Review from the Newbury Weekly News.

All-singing, all-dancing panto

Even if a bit OTT on the flatulence jokes

Jack and the Beanstalk, at The Anvil, Basingstoke, until Saturday, January 3

Well, maybe it's the strong influence of certain weekend television programmes but pantos seem to be getting bigger, brighter and louder and with ever more colourful flashing lights constantly going on and off. The singing too, by the young leading players, tends to sound much as though they were standing in front of you know who, warbling away with their fingers crossed.

Panto is panto though and this one at The Anvil had all the required ingredients. Mark Little was Fleshcreep, wearing dark costumes and snarling constantly (from Australia, he is better-known in soapland for being a good 'Neighbour'). Mark Rhodes became known professionally in Pop Idol back in 2003 and here made a lively all-singing, all-dancing Jack alongside Chris Pizzey, who doubled as Simple Simon and director of the show.

All pantomimes need a good dame and this show had one in Philip Meeks, who has practised the craft in several Northern theatres over the years. He was camp and bubbly and did his duty by trotting out most of the obligatory corny jokes that pantos thrive on: "I climbed up a mountain. Everest? No I went straight to the top." When someone mentioned pouring a tub of butter over somebody, Simple Simon weighed in with "How dairy". Well, you expect it really, as you do the new jokes about Jeremy Corbyn, and it's all good fun even if the flatulence jokes were maybe a bit overdone this time.

And Meeks had some strong moments with a variation on the old ghost behind you and "Oh no he's not" and a slightly different approach to the ancient custard pie in the face routine. When he said he was "knickered" somebody said he surely meant knackered. "No," he replied, "my breath is coming in short pants."

The show featured Melanie Walters, who made a glittering Forest Fairy and Chloe Amber was an effervescent Princess Jill. Michael Chance made a good king and there was some fine acting from an uncredited Daisy the cow, big eyes flashing, legs kicking out all over the place and even achieving a mournful expression when sold. The full-sized giant, roaring in dark bass tones was also uncredited, so he must have been doubled by cast members.

The show was completed by the enthusiastic dancing of the Basingstoke and North Hampshire Academies and the dancers playing the villagers. Chris Pizzey's direction and Sarah Louise Day's choreography produced a lively, fast moving, enjoyable pantomime all through. Oh yes it did!


There are reviews in The Stage ("fast-moving action and great teamwork... a top-notch panto" 4 stars), the British Theatre Guide ("with a lively musical score this certainly is the ideal start to the Christmas festivities").