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Jack and the Beanstalk, Lyric Hammersmith review - great fun for all ages | reviews, news & interviews

Jack and the Beanstalk, Lyric Hammersmith review - great fun for all ages

Jack and the Beanstalk, Lyric Hammersmith review - great fun for all ages

A fresh and inventive reworking

Left to right: Faith Omole as Jack, Kayla Meikle (Daisy the Cow) and Kraig Thornber (Dame Lotte Trottalot) in the slosh scenePhotographs by Tristram Kenton

Pantomime may be a very old art form, but the Lyric Hammersmith has been injecting some freshness into it each year since 2009, and this year's production, written by Joel Horwood and directed by Jude Christian and Sean Holmes, is no exception.

Good panto writing should please all ages, and Jack and the Beanstalk certainly manages that. It's a stirringly upbeat show but one with a serious undertow about the importance of being kind and not greedy (Jack's climb up the beanstalk is not to find gold, but to prevent the villagers being made homeless), and there are subtle political nods to Brexit (of course) and the growing gentrification of Ye Olde Hammersmith (ie, rising property prices are pushing locals out). It also boasts a high quotient of groaning puns, mostly delivered at breakneck speed by Kraig Thornber's warm-hearted Dame Lotte Trottalot.

The creators have some nicely subversive touches too; Jack (an appealingly energetic Faith Omole) is a girl, and Jill (Daniel Fraser) is a boy, and they are – in these post-Weinstein times – very chaste lovers. When Jack climbs the beanstalk she doesn't need to be rescued by anybody, least of all Jill, who is a weedy thing much given to actor-y declaiming, in reality in need of rescuing himself from the sheltered life he has with his father, Fleshcreep. Daisy the Cow (Kayla Meikle), meanwhile, really doesn't like being milked – and who could blame her when they see the milking machine she's strapped into?

In a small cast, Vikki Stone is scene-stealingly magnificent as the villain Fleshcreep, being beastly to the villagers while demanding extortionate rents and playing a variety of woodwind solos (Stone is an accomplished musician, but even so); Omole and Fraser make appealing lovers, and Meikle milks the comedy nicely (sorry).

The young ensemble give great support, and Corin Buckeridge's band bang out some great poppy tunes with reworked lyrics – including Ed Sheeran's “Shape of You”, where Fleshcreep sings: “I'm in love with your money!” Jean Chan's colourful set and costumes and Tim Deiling's lighting nicely conjure a magical world.

Fresh and inventive in many ways it may be, but this amiable production keeps the important elements of traditional panto – singalongs, sweet-throwing and a slosh scene. Great fun.

  • Jack and the Beanstalk is at Lyric Hammersmith, London W6 until 6 January 2018

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