Panto review: Full of beans, it hits the heights

John Dolan gives his take on this year's panto, Jack and the Beanstalk, at The Everyman
Panto review: Full of beans, it hits the heights

FUN AND GAMES: Main cast members, from left, Jill (Margarida Silva), Marjorie Dawe (Fionnuala Linehan), Jack (Jimmy Brockie), Professor Saxenfon (Michael Sands), Charlotte Cowhee (Ciaran Bermingham).

A COW who thinks he’s a caped crusader, a hero who struggles with his confidence, a mother with the most Cork accent you’ll ever hear on stage, a constipated goose, and, of course, a love story...

They are just some of the ingredients of this year’s wonderful Everyman panto, which will be wowing fans large and small from now until the new year.

And I didn’t even mention the brilliant giant puppet villain, which almost steals the entire show...

As ever, the venerable venue’s pantomime is a madcap celebration of song, dance, comedy, and stagecraft... with the threads of a famous fairytale in there somewhere.

It’s Jack And The Beanstalk, folks, but not as we know it. It’s been genetically modified — or modestly jellified, as the cow with udders may have put it — for a 21st century audience.

So, Jack, played by Jimmy Brockie, is a bit of a bumbling wreck, while his good friend Jill (Margarida Silva) is strong and ambitious.

Jack’s mum, Marjorie (Fionnula Linehan) provides lots of laughs as the quintessential Corkonian/Irish Mammy.

To this already dysfunctional group, enter a mad scientist, Professor Saxenfon (Michael Sands), and a goose that has stopped laying, and you have the makings of more than two and a half hours of merriment (including an interval).

Of course, there are break-out song and dance routines, the fourth wall separating actors from the audience is not just breached but hacked into submission, and there are timely comic nods to Donald Trump, Brexit and The Young Offenders, as well as a cameo for De Echo, boy!

And underpinning proceedings is the Dame/Cow, Charlotte, played, as ever, with relish, devilment, panache and skill by Ciaran Bermingham.

The packed audience lapped up the whole affair, but the highlight for my four-year-old was at the end of the first half, when the beans magically sprouted into a giant beanstalk before our very eyes.

My ten-year-old, though, thought the best part was at the start of the second-half, when the giant entered stage left. And what a giant of a performance!

The big fella in this instance is a wonderful 15ft puppet, who stomps around the stage declaring his hunger for a human being. He’s thrillingly realistic yet not in the least bit frightening, even for smallies of a sensitive disposition. The giant was made by the Cork-based Dowtcha Puppets and Alex Hindmarsh controls it live on stage — he’s actually performing from inside and it’s his voice we hear singing and talking. Well done, sir!

The show rolls along merrily to a suitably frenetic finish, where the boy gets the girl, the girl kisses the boy, and everyone lives happily ever after (except the giant, who ends up shrunken down to less than life-size, looking like the even uglier brother of Podge and Rodge)

All’s well that ends well — the cast have a ball, and so do the audience.

The actors and singers all perform brilliantly, and a special mention for the younger performers from local dance schools who excel in the spotlight.

The pop songs in particular are performed with gusto and skill — a special mention for Silva’s spellbinding rendition of Senorita, Brockie’s version of Someone You Loved, and Bermingham’s Don’t Stop Me Now.

John Dolan

Jack And The Beanstalk runs at the Everyman until January 12, 7.30pm start and finishing around 10.15pm. Matinees on various dates too, see everymancork.com. ISL Performance on Friday, January 3 at 1.30pm.

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