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Oxford Playhouse - Jack and the Beanstalk

24th November 2017 to 7th January 2018.

Review from the Newbury Weekly News.

Beans means vines

Jack and the Beanstalk, at the Oxford Playhouse, until January 7

Steve Marmion's third Oxford Playhouse pantomime is a fast-paced, fun show with a wide appeal. It is also a bold critique of rampant capitalism and social evils.

It is set in the 'medieval' town of Oxford, which is facing huge increases in tariffs from a giant who operates the cloud services for the population. The giant, later introduced as a red-eyed puppet of Donald Trump, rules through his purple-clad lackey Judy Hench (not so much a national treasure as a local disgrace), who plans to flood the city with millions of raindrops. Played by Amrou Al-Kadhi, his comic, bitchy performance is a highlight of the show. With his long legs visible through a slit in his skirt, he snarls at the audience, insulting it, attacking its intelligence (it is Oxford), always displaying a smooth, sharp wit.

The pantomime opens unexpectedly, with a sad, but tuneful number, led by Jack, a Brummie (Ricky Oakley), showing the hero growing up from the age of seven. Different boy actors appear in his patchwork green outfit as Jack ages, and over this time his friends, including special pal Jill (Jennifer Wakefield) are snatched by the giant to work as unpaid slaves in his raindrop factory in the sky. Jack is left with his older sister Simone (Emily Burnett) and his gag-telling northern mother Dame Trott (Paul Barnhill, returning to the Playhouse), whose routines are traditional vaudeville silliness. Her layer cake dress for the finale is worth waiting for. The sweetest voices belong to Rebecca Lucy Taylor, as Fairy Nuff, a pink-dressed rapper and Rebecca Craven as a rather dim goose.

Hannah says: "My favourite character was the fairy because she was telling the audience what was happening.

"My favourite song was Roar.

"The boy-girl person, the baddie in purple, was funny because in the last bit she was wearing the rubber ring and said: 'I should have got a different thing to wear because it's very noisy.' Jack kept saying 'hiya': he was good because he was being nice. The cow was called Jagger and was very, very funny because it wanted to dance."


There are reviews from The Stage ("the best cow this panto season... the songs are a highlight... brilliantly engaging theatricality" - 4 stars), the Oxford Times ("sensational... the sets are superb, the costumes excellent, and the whole look of the show is lavish" - 5/5), the Oxfordshire Guardian ("a great start to the festive season thanks to the Oxford Playhouse pantomime Jack and the Beanstalk... if you get the chance, go and enjoy the show"), DailyInfo ("a right rollicking ribtickler, it'll have kids and adults alike guffawing... a good dollop of seasonal fun which will appeal to the whole family").