Jack & the Beanstalk

“Hilarious, outrageous costumes, fun sets, well-performed songs and superb cast. Family fun at its best”

There really is nothing quite like the magic and joy of a Christmas pantomime. It lifts spirits and is the perfect way to get the entire family into a festive mood. Jack and the Beanstalk has the honour of being chosen for the 2023 pantomime at Oxford Playhouse, and this giant of a show is the perfect way to welcome in Christmas.

The Oxford Playhouse Theatre has a reputation for putting on shows for all the family, with a calendar of events that includes adaptations of childhood favourites and brand new shows. Going by this beloved production, it will retain its place as an ideal family night out for a long time to come. 

This production of Jack and the Beanstalk is written by Jack Counsel and directed by Toby Hulse, and is playing until Sunday 7th January. 

The audience join Jack (Max Guest) and Jill (Dumile Sibanda) on an adventure to solve the mysterious goings on in their hometown of Oxenford. Dumile Sibanda makes her panto debut as Jill, a chicken farmer who has taken on the daring task of village detective.

Poor luckless Jack Dairy gets into trouble for selling the family cow for a handful of old beans. The pair then climb up a beanstalk, through the clouds before coming face to face with an environmental, vegetarian giant (Alasdair Buchan). Having appalled and disgusted audiences in last year’s Cinderella, Alasdair returns as Dame Mary and supported by Heather Porte as ‘slightly fragile’ Susan, the trio are standouts. They work so well together and provide much of the show’s comedic moments. 

One of the best things about Panto is returning fan favourites, familiar faces returning year on year to entertain audiences around the country. Fan favourite Robin Hemmings captivates Oxford Playhouse for a second time, after playing Fairy in last year’s Cinderella. This time portraying Hendrix the Horrible, a wicked crook and brother of the giant, with an inability to resist the urge to steal items. Villains often play an integral role in any Pantomime, described as the best role in Panto. There is no other job where you get plaudits, celebration and appreciation, yet relentlessly booed the minute you walk on. Robin Hemmings captures the character beautifully. Enticing participation throughout, while slowly winning over the audience, before a quite frankly a breath-taking finale.

The show contains many classic Panto elements an audience expects to see. Although catering for a more younger audience with plenty of booing, cheering, cheesy one-liners, and bean-related puns, the show offers slapstick comedy and a rather unique take on Dexy’s Midnight Runners classic ‘Come on Eileen’. One that must be seen to be believed. 

Audience participation was the main focus of the performance, with younger members of the audience throughly engaged and entertained throughout, which was fantastic to see. Everything about this show centres around family fun, a show that can be enjoyed by everyone of all ages. 

Whether you are sitting back, standing up, cheering, booing, laughing, crying or singing and dancing, this magical fairy tale is everything a Panto should be and more. 

The show was reviewed on Thursday 7th December 2023. Jack & The Beanstalk runs at Oxford Playhouse until Sunday 7th January 2024. Tickets available here: https://www.oxfordplayhouse.com/events/jack-the-beanstalk

Reviewed by Stuart Midwinter

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Photo credit: Geraint Lewis

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