Digital Editor Halima Ahad and Culture Editor Vidhi Bhanushali share their immersive experience reviewing Hippodrome’s Jack and the Beanstalk, both feeling that it was a humorous treat


Perspective One: Halima Ahad

Pantomime has been gracing our stages at Birmingham for many years. I have not had the chance to see pantomime since my primary school days, but as soon as the offer to see them through press tickets was given to me, I knew I had to take it. Jack and the Beanstalk has been running throughout the Christmas period across Birmingham Hippodrome and the show does not disappoint.

With a star-studded cast, I knew I was imminently in for a treat

The immersive experience of the set and lighting of Jack and the Beanstalk stood out to me, with the main prop of the Beanstalk itself being in the middle of the audience. At the end of Act One, when we see Jack (Alexanda O’Reilly) braving the Beanstalk to defeat the Giant and rescue Jill (Billie-Kay), the audience’s excitement and involvement stood out to me. With the audience’s cheers and encouragement, Jack made it up the Beanstalk.

However, there were also many typical elements of a pantomime that were seen throughout Jack and the Beanstalk. There were many lighthearted jokes (as well as audience involvement) which put a smile on my face throughout the show. As well as this, there were typical pantomime characters which made the show even more special. Matt Slack as Jake Trot, with his panto flair and charm, really solidified the show and made it what it was. In his tenth consecutive year at the Hippodrome, Slack really immersed the audience into the show as Jake and he really stood out to me as the main protagonist (although he never really got the girl in the end.)

Alison Hammond as the Spirit of the Beans was by far my favourite character of the show, she really brought the Brummie genius and charm to Jack and the Beanstalk, which further solidified my enjoyment of the show as a whole.

One line which really stood out to me was when she first met with Jake (Matt Slack) and they did the running joke about her well-known TV show This Morning. She joked ‘I wasn’t on it this morning’ but laughed as she could not be true to her word that evening, as she made an appearance presenting on the show in the morning.

Integrating Hammond’s life on and off stage was a true highlight for me

The modern elements throughout the show also really stood out to me, including the way Hammond’s character of The Spirit of the Beans was introduced. She did a trendy TikTok dance which shows how pantomimes are changing in tune to society today and to what children currently like.

The backup dancers of the many musical numbers of Jack and the Beanstalk were mesmerizing and fascinating, as well as the array of costumes they wore throughout the show. My favourite sequences had to be the cow dance with the dancers dressed in trendy cow outfits and the Beanstalk dance when the dancers came close to the audience in their beautiful glittery outfits.

Overall, the Jack and the Beanstalk pantomime was really one to remember. With its witty and lighthearted jokes, amazing ensemble of a cast and astonishing depiction of a well-known children’s story, it’s definitely not one to miss out on. Even if pantomime is not necessarily your thing, you will be laughing throughout and leaving with the biggest grin on your face.

Rating – 5/5

Perspective Two: Vidhi Bhanushali

The Birmingham Hippodrome calls Jack and the Beanstalk ‘the panto you’ve been waiting for!’ In my opinion, this pantomime will make you laugh, it will make you cry, it will make you hold your breath till you sigh!

Jack and the Beanstalk will be an unforgettable first-time experience for me!

As someone who has always been in love with the idea of watching live stage performances, the strikingly attractive costumes, especially the ones beautifully carried by Dame Trot, brought out the vivid visuals unescapable to the eye. Another excellent execution of costumes was during the end of the first act when Jack (Alexanda O’Reilly) climbed the huge, inflated beanstalk in the middle of the audience’s seats. It is when the Spirit of the Beans (Alison Hammond) works her magic and the supporting dancers wear sparkling butterfly costumes to enhance the magical experience.

Another spectacular part of the act was the overlapping polyphony. The actors sang their respective parts in a loop at the same time, thus their voices overlapped on the same melody. While they sang their parts, their actions and formations formed an endless loop and to bring out the humour Jake (Matt Slack) and Dame (Andrew Ryan) playfully hit each other to strike the comical timing.

Matt Slack’s active interaction with the audience kept everyone hooked to the stage

Out of the cast, Matt Slack stood out the most for me, given his charming spirit and lively performance. One part of his act that immediately comes to my mind is when he, in his role as Jake, Jack’s brother, is telling him about his encounter with a woman and how he wooed her.

What’s amazing about this is that instead of dialogues, his entire script includes lyrics of famous songs that make the act appear conversational and breathlessly humorous. Another impressive part was when he listed and imitated well-known celebrities from A to Z. Every performer on stage had their unique talent but in my opinion, Matt stole the limelight.

As someone who is fascinated by the hard work and coordination put together to bring out perfection in every detail, I would give this a five star without hesitation. This pantomime truly succeeded in intertwining a children’s story with contemporary humour and taste.

Rating- 5/5

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