Monday, 14 December 2015

Review 4; Bristol Post

Review: Jack and the Beanstalk at Theatre Royal Bath

Posted: December 13, 2015

Martin Dodd and Theatre Royal, Bath 
presents Jack and the Beanstalk

4/5 by Gerry Parker

BATH Theatre Royal have in recent years built up a tradition of good old fashioned family pantomimes based on a nucleus of experienced Panto players who connect with the audience from the word go.

This year local favourite Jon Monie as Simple Simon and Nick Wilton, in the role of Dame Trott fulfilled those tasks in a skilful manner that made their job look deceptively easy.
The audience knew exactly what to expect from this pair, corny gags, well used Panto routines, and the community song, from which they drew every last ounce of response from an audience that loved every minute of heir work.

The big names brought in to boost public interest often prove to be disappointing because of their inability to deal with a live audience, and lack of commitment to the show, but not on this occasion.
Nigel Havers as Fleshcreep in Jack and The Beanstalk at the Theatre Royal Bath
Nigel Havers displaying all the experience gained in playing leading roles for Royal National and Royal Shakespeare companys, and starring roles in big block buster TV series and films was a splendid Fleshcreep, the giant's villainous assistant. In the best traditions of pantomime this was a character we really did love to hate.
You had the impression that Mr Havers was enjoying the freedom of being allowed to ham it up, but did so with complete control, this was a top quality actor who knew exactly how far to go in search of a laugh without descending into caricature.

Katy Ashworth from CBeebies was equally at home in pantoland producing a loveable Fairy who proved to be a fine advisory for Fleshcreep.
As usual those involved in the romantic content of the story had to be content with the crumbs left over by the laughtermakers, but this did not prevent Sarah Louise Day, Princess Jill, who received admirable support from David Alcock as her father the king, and David Barrett in the role of the Giant killing Jack from making pleasing vocal and dramatic contributions to proceedings.
Brightly staged and colourfully costumed there was plenty to please the eye as well as the ear in this production

Read more:

Review 3: Listomania

Sunday, 13 December 2015

Panto Baddie Gag

They're hissing me down in the stalls!
They're hissing me up in the circle!
Even the band is hissing me in the pit!
I can remember when they didn't have a pit to hiss in.

I've only been a Panto villain once and that was in Bill Oddie and Laura Beaumont's Mother Goose at the Shaw Theatre in London 1991-2
The cast included David Yip as Mother Goose, Nobby the Sheep as Narrator, Julie Dawn Cole (my wife at the time) as a very feisty Jill, and Rob Harley (who I was with in Fast Forward and The Satellite Show on TV) as a somewhat Prince Charlesy Prince.
It was really more of a Christmas show with music rather than a traditional pantomime, although it included a lot of the same elements.
I played Mr Tasty, who ran a multi-national Fast Food company, and who was trying to turn all the animals on Mother Goose's farm into Nuggets and burgers.

The hissing in the pit joke is one of my favourite Panto Baddie gags (although I've never seen it done); it was told to me by Terry Duggan (Anna Karen's husband) when I was doing Dick Whittington with her in Rhyl.
He was a lovely man and was staying with us in the hotel; we had lots of chats over breakfast and he was full of wonderful theatrical stories, gags and routines.
He used to do the gag when he played Panto villain (I hope I've done it justice).

It's wonderful when your job gives you the opportunity to meet and work with such interesting people with hear their stories.

At the time Terry was in a wheelchair and a lot of pain (he was in Rhyl with Anna so she could look after him), but he still had his wonderful sense of humour and I'm so glad to have met him.

Sadly, Terry died in May the following year.

Review 2: StageTalk

JACK AND THE BEANSTALK at Bath Theatre Royal

Jack and the Beanstalk - Sarah Louise Day, Nigel Havers and Jon Monie with Ensemble - Photo credit Anna Barclay

Casting one’s eye over the seasonal theatrical fare, one is struck by the range of offerings brought to market. There is, in the much-used promotional phrase, ‘something for everyone’: new stuff, old stuff, kids’ stuff, family stuff and adult stuff. Moreover much of it compares favorably in price to pints of ale and boxed sets. So there is no excuse for not going out and mixing with a lot of other people, in a nice cosy theatre and having the kind of experience that (a little) money can buy, but which television can never provide.

Furthermore, if one can extrapolate from an Oxford University study published today, showing that early contact with poetry, books, numbers and the like has a lasting beneficial effect on pre-schoolers as they progress through the education system, then we could expect that early contact with live theatre will have a similar effect on, if nothing else, at least their perception that going to the theatre is something ordinary people do. (Of course you and I knew that all along) It’s called, ‘being part of the culture’, as much as going to a football or rugby match on a Saturday afternoon or watching a soap and it’s fun with side benefits.

With this in mind you could argue that it is the duty of pantomimes (and family Christmas shows generally) to be as good as they possibly can so that parents are attracted and children are hooked – for life. Whilst this reviewer hasn’t seen all that is on offer regionally – honours are shared with StageTalk colleagues – what I have seen falls into the category of ‘very good’ or better and Jack and the Beanstalk is no exception.

Panto scripts are often a bit thin on first reading and it is not until the actors and director get their teeth into them that they come alive. The cast of Jack and the Beanstalk fulfill the promise they showed on paper. Nigel Havers, who leads, gives the impression of having far more fun than a working chap has any right to. If you didn’t know it was him, you might think the part of Fleshcreep was being played by a beastly half-brother. In the best panto tradition he relishes being Mr. Nasty whilst staying on the artistic side of ‘hamming it up’, but with enough oleaginous malevolence to provoke spontaneous ‘boos’ and hisses.

Equally at home in the panto style is Nick Wilton as Dame Trott. Mr. Wilton has that welcome ability to make you feel comfortable and that you are in good hands. Not for him a dame as a man in drag, but a broad character, albeit with a dubious taste in men and bright frocks. He has learned the lesson, which generally comes from experience, that you don’t have to deliver every line as if it were a punchline and that a throwaway can sometimes be funnier. His is a dame in the best tradition and it is perhaps no coincidence that some of the funnier moments are his interchanges with Fleshcreep.
Jon Monie and Katy Ashworth are equally experienced and have an easy relationship with the audience as Fairy and Simple Simon – Mr Monie in particular with the young members of the audience who were brought onto the stage when he manages to get a few laughs without anything even their parents could object to. With a couple of bright ‘juve leads’ in Sarah Louise Day and David Barrett and a likeable King in David Alcock the excellent company breathes life into the familiar characters.

This is a pantomime, which delivers in talent and spectacle with colourful sets and exuberant dance numbers to provide a sparkling seasonal treat. With its excellent sister houses in the Egg and Ustinov the Theatre Royal is uniquely placed to follow up on what will be for many young people their first taste of live theatre and on last night’s showing, one they will want to repeat.    

★★★★☆     Graham Wyles     12th December 2015

Review 1: Fine Times Recorder

Jack and the Beanstalk at Bath Theatre Royal

THERE has never been a more fun beanstalk to climb than that on stage at Bath’s Theatre Royal this Christmas.
The show is full of energy and colour, song and dance, incorporating all the vital elements of a traditional pantomime but at the same time mixing in enough topical and local jokes and and recent pop to delight all sections of the audience.

pantojack10Jack and the Beanstalk - Nigel Havers as Fleshcreep - (1) - Photo credit Anna Barclay
Most of the women in the audience were swooning not only at the muscles of the principal boy but a  Fleshcreep of extraordinary charm and beauty, in spite of some very green makeup and lighting. If you cast Nigel Havers as your baddie, you must expect a certain confusion of reaction!

Jack and the Beanstalk, on stage in Bath until Sunday 10th January, really is a terrific pantomime, with spectacular sets and costumes to match scintillating performances.
The very loud echoing sound of Giant Blunderbore is enough to send a scary frisson around the auditorium, but with a Forest Fairy in the form of Kathy Ashworth of CBBs fame, it’s all going to turn out fine in the end.

A Bath panto wouldn’t be the same without Jon Monie, and he’s on fine form as Simple Simon, a role in which he can make the most of his rubber face.  He is teamed with the “new” dame, Nick Wilton, who steps into the huge shoes of Chris Harris with disarming pizzazz and poignancy – and very deep loud voice when required!

pantojack9Jack and the Beanstalk - Nick Wilton as Dame Trott - Photo credit Anna Barclay

David Barrett is a hunky and self deprecating hero, fighting for the love of his princess (Sarah Louise Day who is also in charge of the excellent choreography). And David Alcock makes the king a much more memorable character than usual.

pantojack8Jack and the Beanstalk - Katy Ashworth with dancers from Dorothy Coleborn School - Photo credit Anna Barclay 
Children from the local dance school are a must in pantomime today, and the students of the Dorothy Coleborn School are a joy, entering into the show with gusto.

If the script is a bit laboured at times, don’t worry …  Havers, Monie and Wilton are on hand to add their own touches of spontaneous fun.

pantojack13Jack and the Beanstalk - Sarah Louise Day David Barrett and Jon Monie with Ensemble - Photo credit Anna Barclay

If the Theatre Royal is the prettiest theatre in the country, this is certainly a pantomime to match, from the lush greenness of the beanstalk to the stunning wedding that ends the show. Highly recommended for all the family.

Photographs by Anna Barclay

Friday, 11 December 2015

Charity Christmas Cards

Bath's panto Dame champions local good causes

By LJGillespie  December 05, 2015
Bath's panto Dame has championed the work of a special festive pop-up shop.
Dame Trott from the Theatre Royal's pantomime has visited the Bath's Cards for Good Causes pop-up charity shop at St Michael's Without Church on Broad Street.

Cards for Good Causes has been selling cards in Bath for nearly 50 years, and for more than 40 years a pop-up shop has been created in St Michael's Without.

Staffed by manager Tony Green and a loyal group of more than 60 volunteers, the shop can be easily spotted by looking out for the Cards for Good Causes distinctive triangular red Santa sign on Broad Street.
Cards for Good Causes is the UK's largest multi-charity Christmas card organisation and the Broad Street shop is the second largest in their nationwide network of shops – a testament to the support shown for the organisation by the people of Bath.
As well as the many national charities supported by card sales at St Michael's Without, three local Bath charities are also represented: Dorothy House Hospice Care, Research Institute for the Care of Older People (RICE) at the RUH, and Julian House.The shop stocks over 300 different designs, including cards featuring local scenes of Bath.
Award-winning actor Nick Wilton, who is staring as the Dame in this year's Theatre Royal pantomime Jack and the Beanstalk, popped by the shop to meet with its volunteers.
Nick is known for his stage and television roles including playing Market Inspector Mr Lister in EastEnders for six years, as well as performing in Carrot's Lib, The Bill, Holby City, and many children's programmes.
He said: "I salute the team of volunteers who give their time to run Bath's Cards for Good Causes. Their hard work, and the support of everyone who has bought from the pop-up shop at St. Michael's Without, will help to benefit 39 deserving charities.
"If you haven't paid a visit yet there's still time to go, the shop is open until 16th December and has a wonderful range of cards to choose from."
The Cards for Good Causes pop-up shop at St Michael's Church, Broad Street, is open Monday to Saturday between 9.30am and 5pm until Wednesday, December 16.