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Jack and the Beanstalk review at the Forum Studio, Chester – ‘enjoyably rough and ready’

Jade Pritchard and the cast of Jack and the Beanstalk at the Forum Studio, Chester. Photo: Mark Carline

This seasonal offering from Tip Top Productions – only the second professional panto the company has presented in this bijou performance space occupying the basement of Chester’s old Gateway Theatre – punches above its weight in more ways than one.

Firstly the production team manages to make the most of what is clearly a very limited budget, with an ultra simple but cleverly multi-purpose set serving as the backdrop to all of director Steve Davies’s well-paced scenes, while leaving enough in the coffers to give Kevin Dewsbury’s sure-handed, gravel-voiced Dame Trot the requisite frock changes. But it also boasts a bona fide talent show star in the shape of Voice UK finalist and – with fellow Voice alumni Jake Shakeshaft – 2016 UK Eurovision entrant Joe Woolford. He is an engaging presence as Jack, even if his strongest asset is – unsurprisingly – his voice, delivering note-perfect versions of The Climb, the ubiquitous Can’t Stop the Feeling! and duetting to tuneful effect with Jade Pritchard’s plucky Jill on his Eurovision song You’re Not Alone.

Peter Swingler’s script muddies the fairytale plot somewhat but is far better when giving the cast opportunities to interact with a very vocal crowd and making way for the deftly chosen songs, most notably a distinctly kiddie-pleasing Little Mix medley.

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Enjoyably rough and ready production engages with good old-fashioned interplay and catchy tunes