JACK AND THE BEANSTALK – The Bull Hotel, Bridport


17 December 2023




The day after seeing a below par pantomime production, it is good to report that things took a distinct turn for the better and something a bit different. Bridge House Theatre takes its pantomime on the road to Fuller’s Pubs across the country. The limitations this places on a production are quite considerable – the luxury of setting into a theatre for a week or so with huge sets and racks of costumes is not on the agenda. In this instance, a cast of 4 and a minimal crew use little set and few props – the result is a complete treat!

I have alluded to the need for a decent script to make a pantomime work and Luke Adamson’s version of ‘Jack and the Beanstalk’ ticks the boxes. It is original, fun, funny, just about the right length, oh, and it tells the story clearly. The set is provided by some colourful projections and fun animations – they do the job admirably. Some original songs and ones people might know are well delivered  – the version of ‘I Know Him So Well’ is a hoot! – and the choreography is neatly done and effective. Costumes are limited, but are great quality and do the job perfectly well. No lighting was required at this venue – there is no blackout – but somehow it doesn’t affect what is going on. All this points to the need for strong writing and strong performances – both are vital when other usual elements are not present – in this production you get both.

The quartet of actors is lead by Brendan Matthew as Dame Tabatha Trott; with a smidgeon of Catherine Tate (her ‘Nan’ character in particular – but without the potty mouth) this is a wonderful creation. Big, bold and loud this Dame isn’t to be messed with. Matthew is a natural ‘dame’ – I was surprised to read that this is his first one – he deals with the audience brilliantly and gathers plenty of laughs when dealing with the unexpected. He has a cracking singing voice to boot. Super. Likewise Alex Dowding makes for a great ‘Jack’; full of wide-eyed innocence, he gathers the sympathies of the audience with ease and has some wonderfully fun dance moves. Much fun is had with the doubling of the roles of Jill and the Pat the Cow and the quick changes required and Dorothea Jones deals with this with great humour, though vocally she is, at times, a little quiet. Janna Fox imbues ‘Fleshcreep’ with all the usual nastiness and works the audience really well as she manipulates the action. Giant George appears as part of the animation which works pretty well.

The problem with performing at different venues is there is little time to adjust to local surroundings and The Bull Hotel in Bridport has a super ballroom in which to perform, but the acoustics are not kind and so some of the ‘asides’ were lost way up into the high ceiling. The music, though sounded fine and the singing filled the space admirably well.

There is some very funny business and the ‘milking’ scene was hilarious as members of the audience dashed for cover – simple, very effective and well executed routines like this are the sign of a good pantomime.

The audience had a hugely entertaining afternoon; a great mix of adults and children who joined in with enthusiasm. Credit to Luke Adamson again for directing the action slickly, to the technician Joseph Lindoe and the musical director Dominic Veall for offering this treat of a show. It demonstrates just what you can do with the right words and performers and how you don’t necessarily need all the other trappings!


Cast & Creatives

Jack – Alex Dowding

Dame Tabatha Trott – Brendan Matthew

Fleshcreep – Janna Fox

Jill Jones/Pat the Cow – Dorothea Jones

Giant George – George Lennan


Writer & Director – Luke Adamson

Musical Director – Dominic Veall

Choreographer – Brendan Matthew

Lighting Design – Joseph Lindoe

Sound Design – Luke Adamson

Stage Manager – Thomas Thornhill

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