Jack and the Beanstalk, Hackney Empire, review: ‘A treat for every generation’

Jack and the Beanstalk at Hackney Empire. Picture: Robert Workman

Jack and the Beanstalk at Hackney Empire. Picture: Robert Workman - Credit: Robert Workman Photographer

This bold, big-hearted Hackney panto lays on laugh after laugh, says Nathalie Raffray.

With plenty of laughs while keeping with tradition, the Hackney Empire’s Jack and the Beanstalk is a crowd pleaser and not just for kids.

Hackney Dale is caught in the grip of a perpetual winter, and cameos from Channel 4’s Jon Snow and BBC’s Robert Peston as the curtain goes up immediately tells you this a panto on a different scale. (Oh yes it is!)

Susie McKenna’s production is a slick two hours of belting songs, cracking one liners, a nod to daily politics, a touch of innuendo, and some slapstick thrown in.

Mother Nature is under threat from evil giant Blunderbore and his superbugs Nasty Bug and Stomach Bug, a boo hiss, nose-picking pair.

Jack (Debbie Kurup) and his friends Clumsy Colin and Off Her Trolley Molly are chosen to bring summer back to the Dales, but the plot of the story we all know by heart only kicks off towards the end of the first half.

No matter, the audience is bounced along, not least by the Olivier Award-winning Clive Rowe’s irrepressible Dame.

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Dame Daisy Trott, Jack’s mother, is a tour de force with her comedy, pathos and rapturous rapport with the audience – a simple raised eyebrow and we’re all whooping.

Kat B is comic cool as the Jamaican Snowman with slick dance moves as he grooves with a band of penguins to Mark Ronson’s Uptown Funk.

The show is nothing if not contemporary, with references to the Boris cycle superhighway and the 5p bag tax.

Songs such as Shake It Off and Hotline Bling will delight unsuspecting teens while the Dame emerging from the beanstalk panting Climb Every Mountain will bring joy to everyone.

The set is simple and effective and the 15ft lumbering giant with bulging eyes is superb.

The pace is quick enough that you don’t get lost in the myriad plots, just carried along remembering to shout out “knickers Colin!” just like you were told to do. It’s bold, big-hearted and it’ll have you on your feet singing Moo to the left, Moo to the right with its happy ending.

A treat for every generation.

Rating: 5/5 stars

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