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Review: Jack and the Beanstalk, Sittingbourne

By John Nurden

It's not often you see a panto star wobbling around on a giant unicycle but that's what Tom Balmont did in Jack and the Beanstalk at Sittingbourne's Swallows Leisure Centre.

He also juggled as a young member of the audience threw clubs into the air for him to catch.

The stunts, including a death-defying encounter with a stool, came as a surprise to many but Balmont is no stranger to danger.

Daredevil Tom Balmont in Jack and the Beanstalk at Sittingbourne's Swallows Leisure Centre (6183881)
Daredevil Tom Balmont in Jack and the Beanstalk at Sittingbourne's Swallows Leisure Centre (6183881)

The actor, who stars as Jack, can often be seen juggling with fire, machetes and swallowing swords as a street performer at London's Covent Garden.

In the panto he ended up having fisticuffs with the giant's evil henchman Fleshcreep (Corrie's Steven Arnold who played Ashley Peacock) while his 'mum' Dame Trott (Harry Moore), Princess Jill (Katie Burke) and Fairy Beansprout (Olivia McLaughlin) looked on.

Fisticuffs between Jack (Tom Balmont) and Fleshcreep (Corrie's Steven Arnold) in Jack and the Beanstalk at Sittingbourne's Swallows Leisure Centre (6183865)
Fisticuffs between Jack (Tom Balmont) and Fleshcreep (Corrie's Steven Arnold) in Jack and the Beanstalk at Sittingbourne's Swallows Leisure Centre (6183865)

Balmont proved popular with his relaxed way with youngsters, especially when dealing with a shy six-year-old birthday boy, and brought back memories of Brian Cant presenting the children's TV show Play Away.

There were plenty of explosions in the converted sports hall to keep youngsters on their toes and more songs you could shake a stick at.

Katie Burke, back for her second run at the Swallows, proved a particularly good singer and Steven Arnold made a supremely boo-able baddie.

Puff of smoke: Evil giant's henchman Fleshcreep (Steven Arnold) in Jack and the Beanstalk at Sittingbourne's Swallows Leisure Centre (6183878)
Puff of smoke: Evil giant's henchman Fleshcreep (Steven Arnold) in Jack and the Beanstalk at Sittingbourne's Swallows Leisure Centre (6183878)

Harry Moore, an unusually thin dame, took a tumble and lost his wig while trying to milk Daisy the cow which caused mild amusement. As Jack quipped: "I bet that never happened in the RSC."

The cast and dancers, especially during the now seemingly obligatory ghost gag sketch, certainly outshone the props which included a rather sad-looking beanstalk and Giant Bumbledore with a less-than booming voice actually triggered a few titters when he first staggered into view.

Fee-fi-fo-fum: It's Giant Bumbledore in Jack and the Beanstalk at Sittingbourne's Swallows Leisure Centre (6183869)
Fee-fi-fo-fum: It's Giant Bumbledore in Jack and the Beanstalk at Sittingbourne's Swallows Leisure Centre (6183869)

The venue can sound a bit echoey and the lack of raked seating doesn't help. And throwing a baby doll across the stage Punch and Judy fashion may not be the most politically correct action to take.

But the youngsters left the show buzzing. And that, after all, is what panto is all about.

Swallows Leisure Centre, Sittingbourne, stars from Jack and the Beanstalk...Olivia McLaughin, Steven Arnold, Tom Balmont and Katie Burke. ..Picture: Sean Aidan. (6180628)
Swallows Leisure Centre, Sittingbourne, stars from Jack and the Beanstalk...Olivia McLaughin, Steven Arnold, Tom Balmont and Katie Burke. ..Picture: Sean Aidan. (6180628)

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