Jack and the Beanstalk
Jack and the Beanstalk
Applecart Arts, East London
16th December 2022-2nd January 2023
Written and Directed by Alex Howarth
Musical Director- Jerome Van Den Berghe
Choreographer- Aaron Collier
Set and Costume Design- Alice McNicholas
Lighting Design- Will Alder
Photography by Will Alder and David Trowbridge
Alex wrote and directed his first pantomime, which opened at the brand new Applecart Arts in East London. Working alongside acclaimed pantomime producer Samuel Ranger and the team at Applecart, with diverse casting and affordable ticket prices, Jack and the Beanstalk was a vibrant and contemporary pantomime for Newham.
NOMINATED- Best Newcomer (Aaron Collier)- The Off West End Awards
Number 9 Reviews, 23/12/2022
Walking into The Passmore Edwards Building in Plashet Grove, East Ham, I thought the story of Jack And The Beanstalk was one I could rely on knowing well, however, the creatives and cast on this team rewrote it. Directed and written by Alex Howarth, it was refreshing, progressively different, utterly hilarious and catered to every audience member. Children and adults alike left with wide smiles on their faces.
The use of space on the production was contemporary. Set and Costume Designer, Alice McNicholas, used the fairly small box theatre to create an immersive set replicating the ‘quaint village of East Ham’. Large painted curtains of fabric made up the sky and the beanstalk which coupled with the green painted floor created an almost ethereal space. It was as though we had stepped into ‘cloud land’.
The costumes were designed in light blues and yellows. The careful colour pallet created a unity in the cast which was contrasted by the evil character, Fleshcreep, who was dressed in deep blue. This division of the characters from good and bad emphasised the ‘goodie’ /‘baddie’ tropes of the pantomime effectively.
A particular favourite of mine was the character of the Dame Tilly, Jack’s Mum. She was dressed in a beautiful blue gingham apron dress with a yellow shirt and yellow petticoat. She had an incredible yellow wig which created overstated yellow bunches matching her loud and dramatic characterisation by Tori Messenger. Messenger’s characterisation was hilarious and refreshing. Her thick Derry accent created such a warming character and she was able to charm audience members interacting and encouraging participation with both parents and children. It was refreshing to see a female Dame, something not traditionally done in pantomime. This casting decision paid off due to Messenger’s infectious energy and powerful stage presence. She was constantly engaged, quick thinking, and truly made the character her own.
The lighting design, by Will Alder, was striking. Throughout the production the effective use of lighting enhanced the costuming and brought the set to life. This was seen beautifully in Fleshcreep’s performances. The use of green and blue washes brought out the deep blues of her costume complimenting it deliberately. This extended her characterisation making her appear all the more evil and menacing. I, age 20, felt genuinely quite scared!
The lighting design was matched to the musical direction allowing shifts and jumps in the musical scape to be emphasised by transitions in lighting the space. This allowed for the cohesion of all the different creative elements of the production. The collaboration and complementing of each element made the panto a celebration of all the dramatic art forms.
The script was relevant and funny and felt personal to Newham. It was touching to see so many children feeling involved in the show. One of the benefits of having a pantomime in such an intimate space meant the audience really did become part of the show. It was inclusive, personal, and unlike many pantomimes I’ve watched before. Yellow Kangaroo Productions took the traditional eccentricities of panto and added their own diversity. They seem to be rewriting the nature of pantomime to promote inclusivity and acceptance bringing a new age of panto to the London theatre scene!