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Jack and the Beanstalk review at West Yorkshire Playhouse Leeds

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Young Jack is dim, in fact embarrassingly dim. Mike Kenny has decided as much and he has tilted the familiar story so that the chickens, all of them perky creations, are the narrators and instigators. Jack becomes a minor character in his own story and the change of perspective proves a theatrical master stroke.

Jack and the Beanstalk is Kenny’s sixth Christmas collaboration with director Gail McIntyre at the Playhouse. Their collaborations at other times run well into double figures. They have set a standard that should be getting national attention, never mind Kenny’s laudable efforts in adapting The Railway Children.

Jack’s adventure is made richer in character, colour and humour – the hens take industrial action. The songs, from Oliver Birch, are folksy/country influenced and have a toe-tapping appeal.

Five excellent actor/musicians animate the story. Four begin as chickens, not with cursory movements, but totally and completely. When they change character, the effect is immediate and understood without question. Emily Alexander’s transformation from a chicken to the giant’s wife will have many surprised that it is the same actor.

This reviewer’s grandson is being taken to see Jack and the Beanstalk. It will be his first visit to a theatre. He could not have a better introduction.

Production Information

West Yorkshire Playhouse, Leeds, December 13- January 21

Mike Kenny
Gail McIntyre
West Yorkshire Playhouse
Nathan McMullen, Emily Alexander, Oliver Birch, Ross Devlin, Caitlin Thorburn
Running time
1hr 40mins
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