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Jack and the Beanstalk review at Watford Palace Theatre – ‘old-fashioned charm’

The cast of Jack and the Beanstalk at the Watford Palace Theatre. Photo: Robert Day

There’s a touch of old-fashioned charm to the Watford Palace Theatre’s panto this year – not that there’s anything wrong with that. The first thing that catches the eye are Cleo Pettitt’s warm and detailed backdrops, which lend a bright and cheerful feeling to the festive proceedings without feeling garish or overwhelming.

Indeed, all aspects of the design are charming, from inventive lighting to the creative costumes. The eponymous Giant’s eventual appearance is genuinely quite alarming, though the costume appears so cumbersome that Charlotte Clitherow can barely move in it, lessening the dramatic impact somewhat.

It’s somewhat of a shame then, that the rest of James Williams’ production feels so underpowered. Andrew Pollard’s script is functional if a little uninspired, and there is a fundamental problem with the structure of the show – it is, unfortunately, far too drawn out and irregularly paced. The cast turn in uniformly good and committed performances, with Terence Frisch’s Dame Trott inevitably stealing every scene, (a favourite being an unexpected duet of George Ezra and Dua Lipa songs with Walter van Dyk’s sprightly Herr Brush), but the show at times comes very close to running dry and losing the attention of the young audience.

It does, however, pick up significantly in the second act, with numerous set-pieces really showing off the ensemble’s comedic prowess, and there are a number of enormously charming audience interactions that lift the production as a whole. It’s just a shame that it takes so long to get warmed up.

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Old-fashioned charm, but lacking in magic