Halfway through Theatre Peckham’s innovative telling of Jack and the Beanstalk, the performance transforms. The set morphs into a Coraline-like nightmare of darkness and glowing white figures which jerk creepily across the stage, changed totally by different lighting.
Those of us who’ve had our fair share of Christmases have been to the giant’s lair in the sky a few times by now, but none of them have glowed quite so unsettlingly as this.
This set change is similar to what they’ve done with the story: on the bones of normality, a fantastical creation has risen up. A brilliant young poet getting stop-and-searched by two rogue policemen wasn’t in the original Jack and the Beanstalk, but I’m quite a fan of adding both poetry and light criticism of abusive police officers to the story.
The young actors add a lot of fun to the performance. On the night I see it, Nova Skyla Foueillis-Mosé plays a sparky Boz the criminal, and Jolie Green-Molloy’s mournful cow brings a touch of Eeyore to the performance. Jack and Lucy are the stars of the young Theatre Peckham’s Academy cast, performing confidently alongside grown-up actors who provide a supportive stage for their counterparts as well as taking their time in the spotlight.
It wouldn’t be a pantomime without some audience interaction, including not one but two singalongs. The second of these feels a little too sedate for the climatic fight against the giant that it’s woven into, and the shy singers among us struggled without an easy rousing chorus.
It’s the details that really make this production, like an old Waitrose shopping bag sticking out of the green of the beanstalk. The singalong is split not between boys and girls but between low voices and high voices, a gentle touch that means everyone can join in. Recycling and inclusivity – that’s the Christmas spirit for the end of 2019.
This show runs until Dec 22nd 2019
Review © A. Lewis 2019
Photo: Suzi Corker