Jack and the Beanstalk is a giant pantomime production with lots of heart, joy, singing, and laughter. This year the crew at the Oldham Coliseum take on the challenge of providing a modern twist on the classic fairy tale – the local giant is obsessed with consuming all the electrical goods of Oldham, which requires a poverty-stricken Jack (and his best mate Jill) to scale the clouds and to recover the local children’s phones, tablets, laptops and televisions just in time for Christmas.
With so many pantomimes around this holiday season, what makes the Oldham’s Coliseum stand out from the crowd? The first reason to pick this pantomime for your family may be at first overlooked, but, as stated above, it is the Director and Co-Writer of the production, Chris Lawson. The passion Chris has for producing accessible, fun, escapist theatre is clear. Chris and Fine Time Fontayne (the Coliseum’s former Dame) have written a laugh-out-loud script which cleverly gives a contemporary spin on the classic story. From the puns and slapstick routines on stage to the amazing costumes and set-design, everything has been thoroughly and thoughtfully considered. This impulse to give the panto a contemporary feel doesn’t come at the cost of more traditional gags and staples, though, such as spraying the audience with water, the traditional ‘he’s behind you!’ skit, and throwing sweets out to the audience. The panto’s mains strengths are the energetically choreographed and performed dance routines set to modern pop songs, which are hugely enjoyable.
As Lawson himself states, theatre is all about collaboration and teamwork, and at the heart of this production is the company of dynamic talents. All the actors bring a warmth and quirkiness to their roles; the ‘Team Green’ Dancers (performing on the night of this review) were bursting with a superabundance of energy and achieved the highest level of polish. Clearly some superstar dancers in the making are gracing Oldham’s stage this Christmas. Richard J Fletcher (Dame Dotty Trott) warms into his performance and, after spending the first act getting into his groove, seems much more comfortable in his character by the second act, bringing that amiability and sense of matronly warmth that all the best panto dames provide. Sophie Mercell delivered a super-expressive performance in her character of Grotton, and Mitesh Soni as Hazy the hippy ‘vegan’ cow is sensational and steals the show with his deadpan insightful humour. The costumes and set design are more extravagant and lavish than you would expect of a panto of this scale, and definitely make the best use of the space available on the stage.
It’s Hazy who has the best line of the show… “The best revenge is to improve yourself!”. Oldham Coliseum have certainly taken this maxim to heart and have produced what many will agree is their best panto yet! It’s a fun time for the whole family filled with laughter, music, colour and sparkle… what more could you ask for this festive season?
Reviewer: Amanda Hodgson
Reviewed: 16th November 2019
North West End UK Rating: ★★★★