Monday, April 22, 2024

Top 5 This Week

Related Posts

Review – The Scouse Jack and the Beanstalk – Liverpool’s Royal Court

AS always, scouse is on the menu at Liverpool’s Royal Court this Christmas season both on the plate and on the stage – if it weren’t in the show’s title there would probably be a mutiny.

The Scouse Jack and the Beanstalk is the first of the coming panoply of seasonal shows to hit the city’s stages and, true to form, this is the one that’s aimed at entertaining the grownups, not the kids. This year writer Kevin Fearon and director Stephen Fletcher have surprisingly swerved closer to a ‘traditional’ panto format, whilst maintaining their irreverent approach to adapting a plot. This both freshens up the formula and adds to the festive silliness of the evening.

It’s hardly necessary to reiterate the plot revolving around the trading of a beloved cow for some worthless beans and the quest to defeat a tyrannical giant, but suffice to say that all the elements of it remain reasonably intact in Fearon’s re-working.

As with all the best pantos, the trick is to tell the story whilst weaving in some contemporary references and local in-jokes. So it is that the shenanigans of the giant become a cover-up plot by dodgy council officials (which almost takes us into Wizard of Oz territory) and we get an early celebration of Liverpool’s upcoming stint as Eurovision host.

Jack’s almost show-stopping opener to Act II, in which Michael Fletcher gives a very fine rendering of Spaceman in the guise of Sam Ryder, is only one example of this year’s really impressive list of song choices for the show. Earlier there’s a tremendous ensemble piece driven by an outstanding segment of video design from Jamie Jenkin, which will surely raise a few cries of ‘Aha!’ from the audience. Music director Howard Gray and his fine band support the cast in some excellent vocal performances, and the mix of new and old numbers turns this into a worthy rival for any rock’n’roll panto.

Olivia Du Monceau has created a set design that breaks the familiar Royal Court Christmas mould somewhat and adds to the panto-esque feel. The evening rattles along at a fine pace and there isn’t a moment where there’s any hint of a gag or a scene being overplayed – this one really motors. Jake Abraham might be the character who repeatedly describes his own turn as Daisy the Cow as ‘comedy gold’, but there are plenty of other nuggets of that precious element scattered through the script. Keddy Sutton’s Fairy is serial scene stealer, and Lindzi Germain, Liam Tobin and Andrew Schofield all have their share of great material, meanwhile there is no shortage of comic moments for Hayley Sheen, Emma Grace Arends or Emma Bispham either.

The Scouse Jack and the Beanstalk is a fun-packed Rock’n’roller-coaster ride that gets pretty close to matching the success some of the Court’s finest Christmas shows, and it runs Monday to Saturday until the 21st January with Saturday matinees.

Star rating – 4 stars

Review by Nigel Smith

Popular Articles