Pet Shop Boys panto to get you into the Christmas spirit

BELLA BARTOCK, our tame theatre reviewer, put on her glad rags to attend the opening night of the South London Theatre Company’s pantomime, Jack

A right, proper, cockernee knees up: music and dance plays a big part in the Stanley Halls panto

A right, proper, cockernee knees up: music and dance plays a big part in the Stanley Halls panto

I’m always rather suspicious of pantos which advertise themselves as “for all the family”. For some reason, it always seems necessary to add a bit of 1970s smut and innuendo to satisfy the adults in the audience.

In this adaptation from the traditional Jack and the Beanstalk panto, we had quite a bit of “I can feel something long and hard in your pocket” type humour, which was a tad cringeworthy.

And one of the characters was called Marquis de Sade – try explaining that to a six-year-old!

The opening scene has two Croydon teenagers, Jack and Jill , dancing to the Pet Shop Boys “Suburbia”. Jack and Jill are supposedly a couple of stereotypical working class south Londoners. Thing is, they weren’t. Jack sounded as posh as a Windsor, and Jill carried off the image a bit better, but unfortunately kept slipping back to type.

Jack also has a booming voice when singing, which might need some working on.

Stanley Halls' production of Jack has plenty of swash and buckle, too

Stanley Halls’ production of Jack has plenty of swash and buckle, too

If you like the Pet Shop Boys, then this is the panto for you, and two of the rousing highlights were “Go West” and “Se A Vida E”. I was dancing in the aisles! The well-stocked bar helped us along.

The best and most evil character was Hieronymus, exuding wickedness and cunning from every pore. He stole the show.

An interesting twist to the tale, though, which makes a change… I won’t go into it, as it will spoil the ending, but it makes a welcome change from the usual “Prince marries Princess and they all live happily ever after…” tired old storyline.

The younger members of the cast (who rotate the roles so it doesn’t put too much of a strain on school nights) rightly enjoyed themselves and put their energetic all into their performances, especially the colourful carnival scene.

The show does need a bit of tightening up, and seemed a bit under-rehearsed, with dancers looking at each other on stage for cues as to what to do next. I’ll be generous and put that down to first-night nerves.

All in all, though, it’s worth taking the kids to, and a fraction of the price of West End tickets. Now that we’ve lost the Fairfield Halls until hell freezes over, give your local theatre some support and get in the Christmas spirit.

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