After a long stretch without a family panto, in the last few years Brighton has sprouted two. Staged in a seafront hotel by event company E3, Jack and the Beanstalk is the one siphoning up the local sponsors. There’s even a gratuitous bit of product placement relating to how Dame Dolly Trott gets up the beanstalk.
But this isn’t the soulless production you might expect, especially after being forced to enter via the grim cash-in of a ‘Christmas Fayre’. Alasdair Buchan has oily charisma as a Steampunk-trimmed Fleshcreep. Richard Dawes is an engaging Silly Billy. And writer Keris Lea doubles as Fairy Nature, with a dress coiled in ivy and a suitably soaring voice.
Song and dance numbers dominate, with a well-choreographed ensemble and snatches of Abba, Dolly and Cyndi alongside Rita Ora and Jonas Blue. Less artistry has gone into the set, which is dominated by lurid digital projections and misses an opportunity for prop-related fun in the giant’s castle. But we do get a towering inflatable beanstalk, and a lumbering giant.
Rumelle’s Dame Dolly Trott feels rather toothless, with little crowd rapport and no recourse to innuendo (sample ‘gag’: there are lots of vegans in Brighton), and there is no need for the Christopher Biggins’ video appearance beyond it being a somewhat tired Brighton tradition.
But director David Hill understands the panto form – and his audience. The highlight is a deftly-rehearsed version of If I Were Not Upon the Stage, complete with water soakers.