This is intended to be a review of Jack and the Beanstalk at the Oldham Coliseum but first, let me give you a little context.
The date is the 12th December 2019, this evening I went to see Jeremy and the Beanstalk at the Oldham Coliseum. Shortly after leaving the theatre, the exit polls of the day’s general election showed that the play’s villain, Borris Johnson, would win the election, with a landslide majority and stealing the golden egg in the process. I am now at home making sausage rolls (5 ways*) for a work buffet at a job which I will shortly be leaving in order to “follow my dreams”. I’m not entirely sure what is real and what isn’t, but I’ll try and make sense of it anyway.
It took me a little while to get into this pantomime, not because it was bad (because it wasn’t) but because throughout my 20s I’ve been forced into the ‘Young Professional’ stereotype and I quickly realised that I have become a boring stiff who didn’t know how to enjoy himself. The cast quickly broke through my cold hard exterior and rarely did a smile leave my face. Sure, I might have laughed at moments that weren’t intentionally funny, cringed significantly and at one point sunk into the depths of my seat, but it was all part of the fun of a traditional family pantomime.
One thing I love about Oldham Coliseum’s pantomime is that is doesn’t have any “big names” with minor celebrity status, what they have instead is something much more authentic and lovely. The cast of Jack and the Beanstalk deliver entertaining performances with all of the energy and gusto that the festive tradition requires. Whilst all the cast delivered strong performances, Shorelle Hepkin’s performance as Jill Grabbmuch was particularly engaging whilst Mitesh Soni’s Hazy the Hippy Cow was a hilarious representation of an often underused character. My favourite moment of the show came again from Mitesh Soni but this time as Giant Moorside – when he delves into the brain of Dame Dotty Trot (Played wonderfully by Richard J Fletcher) and out pops a Todrick Hall song – I was in tears of laughter! Any pantomime that can put a Todrick Hall song front and centre gets my seal of approval.
Jack and the Beanstalk is an ambitious production, so ambitious that it struggles to fit it all in. The performance I saw finished at quarter to 10, this felt a little too long for me and with children making up a significant portion of the audience it could have been a little shorter. Conversely, the classic elements of a pantomime such as the gunge scene felt a little forced and a little extra time to delight in these scenes would not have gone amiss.
Despite my initial resistance, Jack and the Beanstalk was exactly what I needed it to be. It’s fun, it’s bright, it’s camp, it’s colourful and it’s entertaining. I genuinely believe that in these dark days, Jack and the Beanstalk delivers those magic beans and the glimmer of hope that we all need.
*Caramelised Onion, Cranberry, Chilli Jam, Vegan, Caramalised Onion Vegan.