Jack and the Beanstalk – words and music by Peter Duncan. Everyman cinemas and on line. 4****. William Russell

If you cannot get to the real thing then this filmed whimsical and daft telling of the tale set in a couple of back gardens in South London and St Michael’s Church, Southfields will do nicely. It is going out in cinemas and is available on line.
Jack Trott climbs the beanstalk, rescues Jill Shortshanks, the maiden he loves, and Buttercup, his mother’s much loved cow, who like Jill has ended up in the Giant’s larder in the clouds. Meanwhile while the villagers sing jolly songs and prance round the lawn waving banners and Jill’s Dad, played by the legendary Ian Talbot of Regent’s Park open air theatre fame, tries to get the rent out of Dame Trott who is flat broke. Peter Duncan, one time Blue Peter man, plays Dame Trott wth bonhommie and zest although for me he is not one of nature’s dames – the comic spirit, in spite of some grotesque costumes and terrible wigs, is not really there. He works hard, wears some hideous wigs and even uglier clothes, but he is not very funny. It matters not, however, for this is the season to be jolly and jolly it is, even if occasionally jolly awful,, so allowances can be made.
There are some stand out turns, notably the plain talking Garden Fairy played by Nicola Blackman, the gormless Jack played by Sam Ebenezer, who sings nicely, and the tough as nails Jill played by Sarah Moss, unfazed at being chained up in the Giant’s kitchen as his future pudding course. If Jack was bossed by Mummy Trott he ain’t experienced anything like what is about to happen after the obligatory happy ending when he is united with Ms Shortshanks.
Jos Vantyler as Fleshcreepy, the Giant’s man on the ground as it were, does a valiant attempt at getting the required boos from an unseen audience, Julia Gale and Chris Redburn lumber around splendidly as Buttercup – she even delivers her milk in bottles- and there is the sing along song.
Fun and frolic galore then. While one would like the real thing, although all too often these days the real thing is pretty ghastly, this tuneful confection will do nicely. As a cinema film it is no great shakes, although Saturday matinee audiences may relish the fun, but as an on line streamed piece of theatre it is very well done.
There are enough silver threepenny pieces in this particular Christmas pudding to make it worth consuming.

The Garden Fairy: Nicola Blackman.
Squire Shortshanks: Ian Talbot.
Jill Shortshanks: Sarah Moss.
Jack: Sam Ebenezer.
Fleshcreepy: Jos Vantyler.
Dame Trott: Peter Duncan.
Giant Blunderbore: Yuval Shwartsman.
Wolf Beast: Josh Freeman.
Buttercup: Julia Gale & Chris Redburn.
Joesphine Chasney Evans: Herself.
The Fairy’s assistant: Charlie Booker.
Bailiffs: Matthew Dawkins & Ben Westhead.
The Slosh Builder: Daisy English.
Leaf Fairy: Bessy Ewa.
Harp PLayer: Morgan Wilcox.
Garden Pianist: Katie Duncan.
Baloon Boy: Alfie Loomis.
Children: Ava Taylor-Knott; Lucie Heath; Harriet Taylor-Knott.

Directors: Peter Duncan & Ian Talbot.
Director of Photography: Luke Roberts.
Musical Director: Colin Cattle.
Designer: Peter Humphrey.
Sound Engineer: Matthew Case.
Costume Designer: David ‘Daisy’ Morgan.
Choreography: Julia Gale

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