Saturday, 3 January 2009

Drama Dept Panto: An exhilirating tour-de-force!

'Jack and the Beanstalk'
Hull University Drama Department
December 2008


The Drama Department Christmas show this year was ambitious. Pantomimes, though always popular with children, often find dual appeal a difficult task. ‘Jack and the Beanstalk’ combated this well by using traditional pantomime clich├ęs, but raising its theatrical eyebrows suggestively to tailor to the student filled audience.

From the traditional throwing of sweets to the golden “he/she/its behind you!” the audience revelled in the ridiculous atmosphere. The fantastical (and no doubt painfully expensive) set and brilliant costuming served to add that sparkling element to the magical spectacle, which even Jack’s questionable lack of trousers only slightly compressed.

Pantomime Dame Joel Redgrave eased his way effortlessly through a timeless performance, which was complimented nicely by the token stupid-yet-loveable character of Ned, played by James Townsend, and the exultant classic villainy of Ryan Govin’s Lord Lame. Jess Bannister was, as the Giant’s wife, perfectly Disney, in pleasant voice and good natured rhyme, and those in charge of scene changes and technical cues are to be commended for an almost seamless production.

Due to the exemplary quality of a lot of the show, the discrepancies marring the glossy production were few. A curious audience member might well wonder why the Town Crier worked in the Dairy, why the entire cast attended their own weddings dressed as pirates, and why, for some unknown reason every single person in the cast and band needed to have a ‘funny’ nickname in the programme. In the acting ability of the cast, any complaints the audience might find were trivial, though it seemed ‘Silly Billy’ (Samuel Lannacombe Oliver) took rather a long time to settle into his role, and ‘Jill’, though picturesque, was slightly below the calibre of the rest of the buoyant cast – perhaps more due to the limitations of the ‘typical useless pretty girl’ part than any fault of Claire Greenwell’s.

Musically, the band excelled, and cannily even managed to wend their way onto the stage, in one of the show’s quirkier moments. There was only one horrifyingly chilling episode, when Jack and Jill vocally tortured classic Pogues tune ‘Fairytale of New York’.
Overall, Director Paul Smith’s pantomime experiment was a success, happily encompassing tradition, the customary drama department enthusiasm, and a good working script. A satisfied audience might even call it ‘an exhilarating tour-de-force’.

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