Jack and The Beanstalk

Date 3rd February 2024
Society The Revellers
Venue Little Gransden Village Hall
Type of Production Pantomime
Director Andy Lake
Musical Director Rob Watson
Choreographer Sophie Elwood
Producer Elaine Boyd
Written By Andy Lake

Report

Author: Richard Fitt

 

This was my first visit to Little Gransden Village Hall to see a Revellers production and only the second production NODA has been invited to since I became a rep in 2015. So, all I can say is what bush have they been hiding under all these years, as I have been missing a bit of treat if this pantomime is anything to judge them by, as this was fast paced, high octane entertainment from beginning to end.

First thing to point out was what a very sharp script it was, a home-grown production and a bit of a one man show, but with a superb supporting cast. It was written and directed by local resident Andy Lake, who also played the dame. This is his fourth biannual such production since 2018. And what a great job he did of all three elements. The resources he used in this show belied village hall status and were more akin to a large town society. A cast of nineteen, an eight piece band of local musicians, a superbly painted set, a licenced bar and a well organised FOH crew of nine. And not to forget a fairly packed auditorium. Clearly the village of Little Gransden has more to it than first meets the eye!

Although the village hall itself is quite wide, the stage is however tiny, and only really workable with the addition of a forestage. With the clever use of reversable flats we were treated to a very well constructed Dolly’s Dairy, a prison, Gransdonia and Bluebell Wood, all superbly put together by the set construction crew of Julian Lake and Zuzanna Stawicka with Ellie Beech,  Fiona Lake, Karoline Mansell, Ollie Mansell and Mick Ward. We even had a beanstalk growing before our eyes against the rear wall. All perfectly stage managed by Philippa Watts with George Cain, Annabel Cox and Alan Rowbotham.

Costumes by Laura White, Hazel Pettit with Gill Elwood, Rachel Fogg, Jane Middleton, Karen Morton, Mary Tripp, Angela Wynn and Janet Wynn were very well sourced, exactly what you’d expect and were especially outrageous for Dame Dolly of course. Add in the OTT makeup by Beth Elwood, with Sophie Alexander, Ellie Beech and Sophie Elwood and our cast were up and running.

Sound by Chris Lake was probably as good as I’ve heard anywhere and pitched at just about the right volume. All nineteen stage mics working without a single hitch, an achievement in its own right! A special mention of the sound effects, which were absolutely on cue every single time. When the key to the jail was inserted and turned for example, it was absolutely in sync with the actor.  Very professionally done! Lighting by Gregory Jordan and Rob White was just as good, washed the stage very well and was cued to perfection.

Choreographer Sophie Elwood was somewhat limited by the size of the stage and large cast and kept the dance moves limited to small moves and concentrated on some complicated and very effective hand and body movements, which again were impressive in the absolutely synced timing of the whole cast. Hate to think how many hours of rehearsal went into getting them so completely spot on. Very clever and very watchable.

Our very competent band of Ed Badcock and Alex Barron (Trumpet), Hannah Barron (Saxophone), Elaine Boyd (Keyboard), Fran Schultz (Baritone Saxophone), Seán Walton (Bass Guitar), Rob Watson (Drums) and Jock Williams (Guitar) were, with the exception of two friends from Bedford, entirely local musicians. The choice of popular songs was also very well done or in some cases lyrically adapted and varied from The Heat is On, Calling All The Heroes, The Only Way Is Up, Get Ready, Could it be Magic and Walking on Sunshine. We all joined in enthusiastically.

The story opened and was told by Fairy Bluebell played by Gill Elwood, who spread her fairy dust at the beginning and end of each act.

The title role of Jack was played enthusiastically by young Charlie Lake, who, when he wasn’t swooning over Princess Jill demurely played by Esme Johnson, pitched the role spending most of his time realising what a ‘doofus’ he had been.

Our excellent villain, looking like something out a dark alleyway in a Dickens novel with a stovepipe hat and a terrifically evil smile, was Kevin Mansell as Fleshcreep, who successfully wrung every boo out the audience he could. His evil tax collecting sidekicks, and our comedy duo, named after an infamous local landmark, were a cynical Caxton played by Jon Beech and a very camp Gibbet played by Mark Elwood. Great contrast pairing.

Our regal pair were King Dom played by Francis Arthur, claiming to be just as poor as the peasants and Queen Bea played by Freya Offord, more concerned with rescuing her Golden Goose and her Golden Harp stolen by the giant.

The loudest voice in the show has to belong to Nik Johnson, playing the Proclaimer, who every time he came on made a superb OTT drama out of un-scrolling each proclamation and reading it aloud.

Dame Dolly, undoubtedly the star of the show, very quick witted with all her putdowns, was ruthlessly funny in her pursuit of the unfortunate ‘Neville,’ the member of the audience she picked on to be her beau! He did however take it all in good spirit, not that he had much choice. In fact anything that vaguely went wrong Andy was in there with a hilariously cutting comment to cover proceedings. I think I could safely say Andy Lake is not only a very funny writer, with a sharp wit, but a natural standup comedian.

For the first time for a long time in the versions of Jack I have reviewed we actually got to see the giant (played by Anthony Rhodes), whose beard looked to have been borrowed from Robbie Coltrane aka Hagrid. This setup a hilarious set of quips about how small he actually was. Very clever writing.

Dolly’s cow, sent to market and amusingly named Cow Pat, was played by Elaine Arthur and Em Santus.  Absolutely superb cow costume.

And a curve ball thrown into the script was a lovely little cameo from Ella Bonnett as Goldilocks, whose wig alone is worth a mention and who said everything in rhyme. Not quite sure why she was in the wrong panto, but it all added to the fun.

And the last member of the cast to appear was Ellie Bounford as the finally rescued Golden Goose with a very confident rendition of “I Do What I do”.

And all our leads were well supported by a very well drilled chorus of Sophie Elwood, Beth Elwood, Claire Hall and Karoline Mansell.

So well done indeed to Andy Lake and his excellent cast and crew. This was a first-class production, thoroughly enjoyable, which my other half couldn’t stop talking about all the way the way home. Now that is as high as praise gets!

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