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Beans review at Canal Cafe Theatre, London – ‘a wry, spry adult panto’

The cast of Beans at Canal Cafe Theatre, London. Photo: Alex Brenner The cast of Beans at Canal Cafe Theatre, London. Photo: Alex Brenner
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This wry, spry little adult panto in the upstairs space of the Canal Cafe Theatre is a refreshing antidote to the sugary sweetness of most other festive theatrical fare.

Lesliey Longjohns and daughter Jacqueline live in a pokey London flat above a branch of Greggs. When Ivan Gregg, their evil landlord, threatens to sell the building to a hipster cafe, only a Fairy and some beans can help.

Written by Matthew Floyd Jones, the piano-playing half of comedy act Frisky and Mannish and writer and performer of Richard Carpenter is Close to You at this year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe, this is a bright-eyed and spiky show.

Jokes about recently disgraced celebrities sit alongside an affectionately panto-spoofing grin of a tale about gentrification.

Fun re-workings of some camp pop classics are accompanied by musical director Katy Richardson on piano. These also cheerfully compensate for a clearly minimal set budget.

As Lesliey – here, a panto dame stuck in the real(ish) world, who wants to set up a dog hypnotherapy business – Michael Head is gruff-voiced, foul-mouthed fun. Roann McCloskey and Jessica Brady – alumni of comedy show NewsRevue, which is based in the Canal Cafe Theatre – add nicely to the mix as a Saffy-like Jacqueline and compulsively cryptic Fairy. In particular, Brady, whose manic-smiling Fairy is a cracked Blyton character on the verge of a breakdown, trills her way to being the show’s star attraction.

Jones’ targets – London rental prices and hipster culture – are familiar ones by now, but sparky writing and performances keep Tim McArthur’s production feeling fresh.

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A cracked bauble amid the Christmas glitter, Matthew Floyd Jones' panto is an unexpected treat