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Review of Jack and the Beanstalk at Canterbury's Marlowe Theatre

The cast of Jack and the Beanstalk
The cast of Jack and the Beanstalk

Jack and the Beanstalk

Marlowe Theatre

What was life like before the Marlowe panto?

Those cold, dark winters before the fall of the Iron Curtain and the Berlin Wall. When, huddled around candles during power cuts and three-day weeks, we feared oblivion and went to war over fish.

Then the Marlowe brightened our mood with light, colour, laughs and upbeat music for days and then weeks (this year’s run spans three calendar months).

The bar was set high at an early stage. A procession of big names came to Canterbury with the star rating rising each year.

Samantha Womack
Samantha Womack

Production sets got more lavish, costumes more extravagant and changed with breath-taking regularity.

Apart from a couple of butt-numbing years when it was cast to a big tent in a car park, the Marlowe panto has been a much-anticipated highlight of the year.

And this year’s show is no exception. It doesn’t try to outdo previous productions, relying on the tried and tested recipe of lots of laughs, great music, impressive sets and a magical array of sets and costumes.

Topping the bill are EastEnders’ Samantha Womack (Fairy Sugarsnap) and Mr Maker Phil Gallagher (Billy Trot,) who are both outstanding, but the true stars are Ben Roddy (Dame Trot) and Lloyd Hollett (Dr Hefferlumpenstein).

While Dave Lee is irreplaceable, Roddy is becoming indispensable with his hilarious West Country wit. Hollett is clearly a person of impressive stage talents.

The trick of any successful panto is how do you provide fun and laughter for an audience varying in ages from five to 95?

And this one pulls it off, even if many references fly well north of the heads of younger visitors.

However, an attempt to replicate a successful visual gag last year using road signs and place names fell embarrassingly flat.

Like an unwanted full-back in a highly-successful football team, it needs to be moved on long before the January transfer window.

Bob Bounds

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