Darlington Hippodrome – until 5 January 2020
Darlington Hippodrome proves its “Strictly Got Talent “with its pantomime this year with Shirley Ballas and George Sampson leading the cast in Jack and the Beanstalk.
Qdos Pantomimes can be relied upon to provide a good show and this years production does not disappoint. Alan McHugh has written a decent script full of jokes and tongue twisters and all the fun you expect to see at a panto. The basic story is that Giant Blunderbore is causing havoc by raising the rent in a small village and driving the villagers into poverty. Life is so bad that Dame Trot (Iain Stuart Robinson) is going to have to sell her cow to try and make ends meet and support her two sons, Jack (George Sampson) and Simple Simon (Phil Walker). Jack is upset about selling the cow but he is also distracted as he has met and fallen in love with the beautiful Princess Apricot (Lauren Hall). Unfortunately, the giant wants to eat the princess and his evil henchman Fleshcreep (Daniel Taylor) has taken her and Dame Trot’s cow Moomoo, off to Cloudland where Giant Blunderbore lives. With the help of his family and Mother Nature (Shirley Ballas) Jack sets off on his quest to rescue Apricot, the cow and the village from the grip of the evil giant.
Mother Nature is Strictly Come Dancing’s chief judge Shirley Ballas not only fantastic on her feet, but she also gets stuck in with the acting and singing too. Ballas commands the stage and recites her poetic lines with perfect comedic timing and with the grace and poise of the beautiful dancer that she is. Daniel Taylor is on fine form as the ferocious Fleshcreep, the audience just love to lap up his antics and share their excitement with boos aplenty
George Sampson’s Jack was just right as the young, handsome hero, a nicely judged characterisation, combining that essential childlike innocence and simplicity but with fabulous footwork. Whilst Sampson is a swashbuckling Jack – Lauren Hall was a sadly under used Princess Apricot. However she did have some excellent vocals when she got the chance.
Iain Stuart Robertson was everything a pantomime dame should be. Horrendous make-up, over the top dresses and a completely OTT performance. Putting Robertson and Simple Simon, Phil Walker, together on stage was a spark of genius as they really work as a double act. Outrageously trying to make each other corpse and delivering some of the worst puns in the history of Christmas cracker jokes, this is a pairing that just works beautifully.
Obviously this was a very dance orientated production with Ballas and Sampson showing us what they were made of but a highly entertaining “dance off” with Phil Walker joining in was fun too. Gerry Zuccarello’s choreography was spot on with the 6 ensemble members (Jessica Carrick, Annabelle Clappison, Abbi-Mae Neilson, Connor Parkinson, Callum Rayment and Crischaela Vallender) and the glorious children from the Joanne Banks Dancers. I especially enjoyed the baby sheep.
This was only the second night of the run, so some things might have gone a bit wrong, but the sheer joy of panto is that no one cares when mistakes are made – in fact it can add to the hilarity of the show. All the traditional elements are there and the humour is pitched just right for the age range of the audience. There is plenty of audience participation, Jack and the Beanstalk is well worth a visit.