Review – Jack and the Beanstalk, London Palladium, 30th December 2022

Jack and the BeanstalkI never lose track of the thrill and the indeed the privilege of attending a performance at the London Palladium. Going through those glass doors instantly gives you a feeling of invigoration, of importance, and of being part of decades upon decades of sheer entertainment. As I was growing up, the Palladium always meant the pantomime, but also the home of revue – from To See Such Fun with Tommy Cooper and Clive Dunn, to the Tommy Steele Show, to The Comedians, to Larry Grayson in Grayson’s Scandals, to the Sacha Distel Show (appearing with the then love of my life, Lynsey de Paul) And then the big musicals – Barnum, Singin’ in the Rain, La Cage aux Folles, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, the revival of A Chorus Line, and now full circle to the annual return of the Palladium panto. Good or bad, you can never be indifferent to what’s going on at the Palladium – and long may it remain so.

Julian ClaryLast year there was a plucky attempt to bring back panto to the post-Covid Palladium, with Pantoland, but it’s great to have a proper full-scale panto back here again, even if it is yet another production of Jack and the Beanstalk, although, for obvious reasons, this version is very different from the others around the country. The usual suspects of Julian Clary, Paul Zerdin, Gary Wilmot and Nigel Havers return (and it wouldn’t be the same without them), this year with Dawn French on her second Palladium panto, the exquisite voice and presence of Alexandra Burke, and upcoming musical theatre star Rob Madge. It’s always bizarre (but traditional) that the roles of Jack and Jill (Louis Gaunt and Natalie McQueen) almost appear as afterthoughts; that’s just the way it is, except that there wouldn’t be a story without them!

Dawn FrenchTechnical highlight of this year’s show is without doubt the beanstalk – and I’m not being pejorative about the rest of the show! This is the most auditorium-invading, skyscraper-forming, neckache-inducing slice of vegetation in a theatre since Audrey II had too much to eat in Little Shop of Horrors. And having Jack climb up it is a terrific idea. We were seated pretty near the beanstalk and it’s a shame that the illusion kind of ends with a view that few people would have had, namely Jack dangling around at the very top of the auditorium, waiting for that final pull that would yank him through the roof and into safety. But it’s still a great effect.

Gary WilmotNaturally, Mr Clary appeared in a sequence of outlandish garments, and if there hadn’t been a double-entendre for a few minutes, he’d give us one. His badinage with all the cast – and indeed the audience – is a thing of beauty and a joy forever and is pretty much worth the (expensive) ticket price on its own. Mr Wilmot – of course – did another of his list songs, this year about diseases and ailments, and is always a great laugh. Among the new elements this Rob Madge and Louis Gauntyear, my favourite was probably Rob Madge as Pat the Cow, a West-End Musical-obsessed bovine, who had me in hysterics with their version of that Les Miserables classic, I Creamed a Cream.

There’s no questioning the production values of a show like this – literally, no expense is spared and it’s a pure onslaught of pizzazz from start to finish. As always, enormous fun, and don’t bother bringing the children.

Production photos by Paul Coltas

4-starsFour They’re Jolly Good Fellows!

The Edinburgh Fringe Full Monty (nearly) – Day 14, 18th August 2022

How about a list of today’s shows?

Here’s the schedule for 18th August:

10.00 – Shakespeare for Breakfast, C Arts C Venues C Aquila. From the Edinburgh Fringe website:

Shakespeare for Breakfast“The Bardic Breakfasters are back! C’s sensational Shakespearience returns for our 31st Fringe, with free coffee and croissants! A pleasing plethora of pentameter, puns and pastry. Perfect for hardened fans of the Bard and blank verse virgins alike. ‘A bouncy and boisterous take on Willie’s work’ (List). ‘Well worth getting out of bed for’ (Independent). ‘No holds Bard ( ‘Irreverent humour… clever’ (Stage). ‘Side-splitting… glorious’ ( ‘Full of fun’ ( ‘Sizzling’ (Scottish Daily Express). Free coffee and croissants! Book early.”

Starting off with an old favourite, Shakespeare for Breakfast is consistently one of the funniest shows of the Fringe and never fails to make you laugh your socks off. Don’t know which of the Bard’s works will be this year’s target – but it’s gonna be good.

UPDATE: Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. The fabulous four who brought us Shakespeare for Breakfast are no longer here, instead they have sold the brand to three others whom I doubt saw the originals. Comparisons are odious, but sadly this isn’t a patch on the previous product. SFB used to be thrilling, outrageous, nonsensical, hilarious. This is very polite, subdued, and strangely disengaging. It doesn’t help that very few people are familiar enough with The Winter’s Tale to enjoy the comedy of recognition. A few nice ideas and comedy songs but it left us cold I’m afraid. ⭐️⭐️

11.30 – Accost Your Imposter and Empower Your Power: An Interactive Life Coaching Seminar With Genevieve de Beauvoir, Just the Tonic at the Mash House.

Accost your Imposter“Troubled? Weak? Feel like a fraud? Good. Genevieve de Beauvoir is a fully-qualified life coach* and will be launching her exciting new e-book on imposter syndrome at the Fringe! Imposter syndrome is a clinical lifelong brain disease that affects at least 100% of women and occasional men. In this seminar, Genevieve will offer heart-healing, interactive** life coaching for any audience members with imposter issues and other shameful flaws (incest and hygiene problems are not in her remit). *Certificate available upon request. **To an extent.”

Potentially the longest title of the Fringe, I’m looking forward to this mock psycho-session (assuming that’s what it is!)

UPDATE No 1: Sadly, at 11:50 Ms de Beauvoir hadn’t shown up and the staff at the Mash House told us to apply to the Box Office – progress pending. So instead we booked tickets to see Benji Waterstones “You Don’t Have to be Mad to Work Here”. Always important to be flexible at the Fringe!

UPDATE No 2: Benji read us passages from his to-be-published book; some were very funny, some kind of went nowhere. With the best will in the world, and fully aware this was work in progress, we weren’t entirely sure there was a show to be created here. Hope we’re wrong. ⭐️⭐️

14.20 – Speed Dial, Pleasance Dome.

Speed Dial“Amongst the spires, spikes and sideburns of a 1970s university, a lonely Professor awaits a call. When he’s chased by the ringing of every passing phone, an ominous voice sets a series of mysterious puzzles that stand between him and his missing daughter. Dodgy deans, grumbling groundskeepers and swotty students are suspects as the Professor capers across campus to uncover whodunnit and why. Set to the sounds of 70s vinyl, multi-award winners Spies Like Us bring their explosively physical comedy-thriller about connection, forgiveness… and cryptic crosswords. ‘Singin’ in the Rain meets Hitchcock’ **** (”

Sounds like a fun comedy caper – so I’m giving it the benefit of the doubt with a punt.

UPDATE: Firstly the music is great. The show itself is very original, with very committed performances and the crossword solving aspect of the show was entertaining. However, the play itself was very tiresome, incredibly complicated and extraordinarily and unnecessarily noisy! ⭐️⭐️

16.15 – Rob Madge: My Son’s a Queer (But What Can You Do), Underbelly George Square.

Rob Madge“When Rob was 12, they attempted a full-blown Disney parade in their house for their grandma. As Rob donned wigs and played Mary Poppins, Ariel, Mickey Mouse and Belle, their dad doubled as stage manager, sound technician and Goofy. This is the joyous, chaotic, autobiographical story of actor, writer and social-media sensation Rob Madge as they set out to recreate that parade – and this time, nobody, no, nobody is gonna rain on it. Winner of What’s On Stage’s Best Off-West End Production 2022.”

I’ve heard great things about Rob Madge and his show, so it was a no-brainer that we have to see this for ourselves!

UPDATE: With a powerful voice and a huge personality Rob Madge is a star in the making! A feelgood journey through the trials and tribulations of his childhood, accompanied by vhs footage of his living room shows, aided and abetted by his tireless dad. Very entertaining and rewarding! ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

19.00 – Hamlet with Ian McKellen, Ashton Hall, St Stephens, Stockbridge.

Hamlet“Ian McKellen and Peter Schaufuss will collaborate and perform together at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in the world premiere of Hamlet with a whole new performance concept, adapted from William Shakespeare’s play.”

Surely the hottest ticket of the Fringe! Let’s hope it delivers everything it promises.

UPDATE:Ignore those 2* reviews. They clearly don’t understand the concept of Ballet. This is a stunning piece, superb choreography, meticulously danced, that tells the story of Hamlet clearly and thoroughly. The Prince of Denmark is split into two: one, the vocal nervous wreck played by McKellen, the other, the man who moves, played by an extraordinary dancer. I particularly loved Ophelia’s dances, and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are a delight. Fabulous lighting and sound too. My toes curled with pleasure throughout! ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️