Not many fairytales stand up ethically when you judge them by modern-day values. Red Riding Hood is guilty of cruelty to animals. Snow White is obsessed with self-image. And Dick Whittington is a bit of a, well, you get the point.
So it’s gratifying to see Full House Theatre put a positive spin on Jack and the Beanstalk for its seasonal show at Luton’s Library Theatre. The twist at the end of this tale is that – spoiler alert – Jack doesn’t slay the giant and steal his golden goose, he has a moral epiphany and realises he doesn’t have to persevere with his ailing dairy at all if he doesn’t want to.
That slightly subversive emphasis on identity and autonomy is threaded throughout Harriet Hardie and Ben Miles’ script. There’s a wonderful bit when Jack pulls his two co-workers Jim and Jay up for their over-reliance on the women in their life to cook and clean for them.
The beauty of Hardie’s production is that it doesn’t smash the kids over the head with a sledgehammer of gender politics, though, but layers these ideas into what is already a festive, fun-filled show laced with music and magic.
Sophia Lovell Smith’s set is dairy office set is a riot of colour, and serves well doubling as the giant’s castle. Rebecca Applin’s score is jaunty and heartfelt. And performers Ben Hammond, Gareth Cooper and Nick Pack are free and friendly throughout. The whole thing is a little bit lovely.