The cosy Stratford East theatre offers something for panto lovers of all ages.
Splatford, a precious mud mining town, is driven to poverty by Flesh Creep, an evil fairy who collects mud and rent for the landlord giant who lives up in the clouds.
As the dairywoman Milky Linda runs out of money, she tasks her son Jack with selling his best friend, the brainy talking cow Winnie. Cow for magic beans, beans thrown, stalk grows – you know the story.
It is the unexpected artistic staging of the rodents sniffling the beans out of the trash in the night which helps to push this story off into the air, as up until the end of the first act it is somewhat unclear if and when any beanstalk will actually appear. When it does, you feel that the fun is about to start.
Jack is keen to prove that he is not completely useless, and upon discovering the giant beanstalk he volunteers to climb up and confront the giant on behalf of the troubled townspeople. After a loopy climb and a stint with a zealous avocado he finds the golden egg laying hen and the magic harp and is momentarily tempted to make his famous run for it, but then quickly realises that this is wrong (Ah, what a pleasure when pantos modernise the narrative of classic tales). His cousin and loud, vivacious mother climb after him for support, and they all confront Flesh Creep and her comically misplaced son Junior. Creep has been robbing the town of its riches and is made to answer for it. Let’s not reveal too much here to prevent spoilers, but as befitting a panto, the bad guy turns good and everyone ends up singing a song.
Although the play starts off slowly it does grow on you, especially once the connection to the beanstalk story is made clearer and the pieces start fitting together. The atmosphere in the theatre is lively, the audience participation is just right, and the the actors’ energy keeps the audience engaged. Nathan Kiley brings the character of Milky Linda to life with a fun filled performance – and a special mention has to go to Lily Arnold for the creativity costumes and colourful sets. All in all, a fun night out to remember.