Review – Jack and the Beanstalk, Derngate, Northampton, 23rd December

Jack and the BeanstalkThis is a toughie. I can’t decide whether to tell you all the bad things about it and then praise it, like Craig Revel Horwood on a happy day; or tell you all the good things about it and then move into grumpy mode later.

Hilary O'Neil It’s going to be the latter. Mainly because I look back at last night’s panto with affection. Firstly, there are some excellently dynamic and active performances. Hilary O’Neil as Fairy Cobblers is the spark that illuminates the entire show. Every time she appears with a wave of her wand she does a different impersonation, and they’re really really good, and really really funny. Cheryl Cole, Catherine Tate characters, Jungle celebrities, unnervingly accurate. She worked hard all night and it was appreciated; and she clearly changed her script a bit and made Gavin Woods (as Fleshcreep) corpse, which was delightful.

Adam Stafford Also marvellous was Adam Stafford as Dame Trot. A perfect panto dame, OTT costumes, lightly lewd conversation, super facial expressions, kept it moving fast, ridiculous but endearing.

Nick Weir I’d also give a big HIYA SIMON (as I’m now a member of Simon’s gang) to Nick Weir as Simple Simon Trot, who delivered his role with bags of energy, and really came into his own at the end with the traditional scene of getting four kids up on stage to play musical instruments – the kids were terrific and his interaction with them funny and inventive.

In fact, that’s the key word – energy. Bags of it from those performers, also the singers and dancers, and from the orchestra…but sadly, I have to say, I didn’t see much in the way of energy from Ray Quinn as Jack. He’s clearly a likeable guy, and is amusingly diminutive as the brave lad going to fight the giant; and the opening conversation of him doing the “alright, calm down” Scouse routine was nicely done – and I liked very much “Fee Fi Fo Fum, I smell the blood of a Liverpudlian” which I hadn’t heard before… Ray Quinn We know he’s a good dancer from his Dancing on Ice days, and he’s played the lead role in Grease, so he ought to be pretty dynamic on the stage, but to me he was just static. There’s an early song-and-dance number (Ain’t that a Kick in the Head) in the show when he is coming to terms with his newly found love for Princess Apricot Crumble (nice) with the backing dancers all smartly decked up and it should be Vegas-y or Rat-Packy with Ray in the centre of the chorus line all doing the high kicks – but his just weren’t high. They were limp, like he was delicately playing football with a three-year-old. Maybe he wasn’t well. Maybe he couldn’t be arsed. But it looked wrong. The marriage of Jack and the Princess was the centrepiece of the curtain call but it almost made the applause stop. Was that because of the lack of energy? I don’t know. But I felt rather embarrassed by that.

Other things that didn’t work – a brief “Oh no it isn’t” conversation between the Dame and Fleshcreep was no more than a private interchange that didn’t involve the audience, so it had finished before it had begun; that bloody Churchill dog that gets into every pantomime now should be shot; the underused and therefore pointless appearance of Moosterious (if you live outside Northampton this will mean nothing to you); Jack’s “fight” against the giant was the lamest thing I’ve seen on a stage since… well since Ripley and Ricky went out to sea.

I wouldn’t want to put you off going. It’s a good panto. I enjoyed it. I’ve reflected on it and smiled a lot. And it was very funny when the Pantomime Cow dropped her payslip – no idea if that was deliberate or not but it worked! There were lots of good lines, nice song-and-dancing, endearing characters, cute kids, terrific impersonations, but for me the overwhelming feeling at the end was of being rather underwhelmed. A bit like a whirlpool – really busy and lively at the outer edges but its centre is somewhere you’d really rather not be.

6 thoughts on “Review – Jack and the Beanstalk, Derngate, Northampton, 23rd December

  1. I read the above review with some disbelief. I do wish reviewers would check facts before writing! Firstly, the last thing Ray Quinn was (and we were there as a family on 23rd December) was static! He performed really well, despite still recovering from a fractured collar bone, for which he had an operation to insert a metal plate so that he could perform and not let people down. We certainly appreciated that he chose to carry on despite being in pain! Also the sword fight scene was altered a week ago, when Gavin Woods as Fleshcreep fell and badly sprained his ankle, which is why he is currently appearing with a stick, and is unable to perform the hectic and very convincing swordfight which was performed during week 1! We found Ray Quinn to be a very good leading man who involved the audience well and interacted with all the cast extremely well. The only comment I would agree about is that at the end the leading man usually presents the leading lady for applause and vice versa, which did not happen, and is down to the director and nothing to do with the response from the audience. As far as we could see everyone went away very happy and having had a great time, which is why the production has had so many five star reviews. We all thought it a great traditional panto with no really weak links at all. Thoroughly recommended. I would add that far from “not being arsed” Ray Quinn, together with his partner Emma and their dog Bruno were a pleasure to meet at the stage door and spent ages signing autographs having photos and chatting to everyone.

  2. Hi Sara

    Thanks for responding. I certainly had no idea about Ray Quinn’s injury so I do commend him for appearing. Although, as I did not know about his injury I don’t think I can be blamed for not commenting on it! I did notice Gavin Woods’ stick but it did not occur to me that he had any kind of injury. I still think Ray was quite static but clearly his injury would explain that. As I said he’s clearly a likeable guy and I am not at all surprised that he was friendly at the stage door. The curtain call was an odd affair though; I felt that the audience didn’t really know how to react, and I would agree that the scene wasn’t directed well.

  3. Thanks for responding. I understand actors not wanting a sympathy vote, but I suppose the downside is that people then quite understandably can’t make allowances. I totally agree about the end scene, it is bit strange how it was directed. Nick Weir sort of stopped the applause to call for three cheers for Jack and the princess but I felt they should both have taken a bow really. The audience didn’t really know what to do!! Meant to say I also agree with you about Hilary O’Neil who was brilliant, and I am surprised she isn’t more widely known! Pleased you enjoyed the show anyway!

  4. We went to the panto yesterday and had a thoroughly enjoyable time! We thought all the actors played their parts really well and as it was a sell out audience the atmosphere was really teriific! Hilary O’Neil is a great impressionist. All the actors, Adam Stott, Nick Weir, Emma Stephens and Gavin Woods were really good in their roles. We also thought Ray Quinn was terrific as Jack and certainly at this performance really threw himself into the role. We had no idea he had recently suffered quite a serious injury so well done to him! The cast had great fun adlibbing and making each other laugh. Also commend Gavin Woods for continuing with a sprained ankle, again we had no idea although we thought the sword fight scene between him and Ray a little limp, but obviously both actors were injured! The ending last night was actually rather good as Ray Quinn announced to the audience that he had asked his girlfriend in real life (Emma Stephens as the princess) to marry him on Christmas Day and she had said Yes! All in all we had a really good time

  5. I wonder if the first reviewer was really at the panto. I have seen it twice both with adults and with children and on both occasions we all thought it was wonderful. We loved Ray and emma’s singing and their dancing and the chemistry between them. The whole cast was great and the jokes were really funny. the whole performance was pitched perfectly for adults and children who responded to all prompting. We all have a wonderful time and loved Ray Quinn who was fantastic.

Leave a Reply