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Jack and the Beanstalk review at Brunton Theatre, Musselburgh – ‘inventive, but dated’

Ewan Petrie and Graham Crammond in Jack and the Beanstalk

John Binnie returns to the Brunton after 18 years to write and direct a pantomime that finds inventive solutions to staging Jack and the Beanstalk on a small budget. A human pyramid beanstalk works particularly well, as does the fact that the giant turns out to be his villainous widow, working a huge Wicker Man-esque puppet.

The production relies heavily on excellent song choices for its energy Musical director Tommie Travers provides tight support from the pit for classics such as Eye of the Tiger, a clever selection of show tunes, some up-to-date pop hits and the ubiquitous Floss. All get the audience up on their feet – or swaying along to the soppy ballads.

The musical exuberance is not matched elsewhere. Binnie’s dialogue and direction feels more reflective than dynamic in tone. Cameron McFarlane’s subdued sound design does not help.

As Jack, Ross Donnachie is a great panto lead but needs to be given more control of his role. Eilidh Weir’s clever clogs Jilly provides a strong female focus and a nice foil to Ewan Petrie’s dim Prince Designer Labels.

Graham Crammond’s dame Mither Mandy Moo Moo wears designer Robin Mitchell’s wonderfully conceived frocks with panache, while Wendy Seager provides all the baddie roles with vigour, some glorious vocals and a couple of very fine impersonations.

Despite its invention, the show contains several misjudged and decidedly last century choices. Chief among them is the fact that Jilly’s strength as a character is compromised by the finale in which her putting on a dress is depicted as a triumphant outcome.

Historian Simon Sladen: Why pantomime must be updated for the modern age

https://www.thestage.co.uk/pantomime/

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Verdict
Inventive pantomime undone by a lack of narrative drive and some strangely dated staging choices
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