Jack and the Beanstalk is the panto of choice for the Customs House and it's playing for a HUGE 64 performances from now until 7th January! WOW! I was immediately impressed upon arrival to find a large, free car park. We easily found a space. I do love city centre pantomimes don't get me wrong but sometimes parking in December can be a right pain in the ass so the Customs House receives lots of bonus points for this. Check out the panto trailer below:
I'll start with the positives (and there are lots of them). The script by Ray Spencer and Graeme Thompson is really funny. There are lots of local references and if you live South of the river, you will find it especially amusing. As with most pantos though, the real magic happens when things don't go quite to plan and the ad-libbing and comedy errors had all of the grown ups in stitches. There is a fair bit of innuendo too which although went over the kids' heads, they still couldn't help laughing out loud - I now get what they mean when they say laughter is contagious.
Although there is plenty to keep the grown ups entertained, I think panto is mainly for the kids and Harry, Heidi and Jack loved Jack and the Beanstalk in equal measures. There are plenty of modern references that will delight your kids and there's even a rendition of 'Pineapple, pen, apple, pen' - ask the kids and I bet they know what it is. I didn't have a clue what was going on but it was lush seeing the kids all singing and dancing along, smug that their parents didn't know what was going on. My three were really getting into it.
The singing voices throughout were fantastic with Eleanor Chaganis as Fairy Arachis and Natasha Haws as Eloise really standing out. There are lots of songs that you will recognise too with 'I'm Wishing' from Snow White being my favourite. I am a sucker for a good villain and the bad guys are usually my favourite. Steven Lee Hamilton plays the part of Fleshcreep superbly and for me, he was the definite star of the show and I was secretly cheering him when the whole crowd was booing.
Jack and the Beanstalk has something for the whole family with our Jack (5) loving the giant the best and saying he felt as if the giant was speaking directly at him, Heidi was smitten with Doddington the cow, Steve was enamoured with Dame Trott and Harry wanted to be best buds with Arbuthnott. There really is a lot to love.
If you are planning on taking little ones, the giant wasn't too scary and there were plenty of tots in the audience and I would say the performance is good for all ages. The only negative I will say is that it felt a smidge too long for me and I felt that there were a couple too many solo performances that meant the show wasn't as fast paced as it could have been and if your kids are like mine, they might get restless in parts as there is a lot of singing. The good parts more than make up for this though and there are lots of opportunities to shout 'he's behind you' and 'oh no it isn't' which for us, is one of the things we love about panto. I always catch the smiles on my children's faces as they're jumping up and down in their seats and know that they are genuinely beaming with joy and having the best time.
Personally, Jack and the Beanstalk was a tiny bit of a slow burner for me but once I got into it, I absolutely loved it. It's not about me though and Harry, Heidi and Jack all gave it 10/10. My husband Steve isn't usually a huge panto fan and I normally have to drag him along but even he gave it 9/10 which if you know Steve, is superb praise indeed.
The biggest selling point of this panto for me though, is value for money. You get it by the bucket load! Tickets are from £9.75 with most family tickets costing just £14.50 per person for the best seats in the house. When you compare this to £24+ for a seat without a partial view at the Theatre Royal in Newcastle, it is a massive saving and the Customs House is a fantastic choice for a more affordable family night out this Christmas that is lots of fun for everyone.
The Lambton Worm is going to be at the Customs House next year and the kids have already said they definitely want to come back as they had the best night ever tonight. I think that says it all.