PANTO REVIEW: Jack and the Beanstalk; The Mayflower, Southampton

Qdos Entertainment and Mayflower Theatre Southampton production of'JACK AND THE BEANSTALK'directed by Jonathan Kiley
Qdos Entertainment and Mayflower Theatre Southampton production of'JACK AND THE BEANSTALK'directed by Jonathan Kiley

Quite simply, this stunning production is the best panto any of my family have ever seen.

On one level, it’s a colourful, funny and clever take on one of the traditional old fairytales that somehow stand the test of time in pantoland every year.

But on another, its special 3D sections leave you utterly amazed and at times breathless.

When I heard this was a 3D panto, my initial thought was ‘well it’s a theatre production - of course it’s 3D’. And when we were handed 3D glasses on the way to our seats, I still didn’t get it.

But - without giving too much away - just you wait for the second half of Jonathan Kiley’s amazing show.

You’ll be told when you need to put the glasses, and you won’t be disappointed. Although, depending on whether you’re easily frightened by spiders and the like, so well done are the effects that you might feel the need to take the glasses off once or twice.

On paper, the cast looks strong - if one you wouldn’t think would go well together. Nigel Havers, Julian Clary, Lee Mead and Jeffrey Holland - all great talents from different corners of the showbiz world, but could they combine? The answer is an emphatic yes.

Havers’ - who revels in the role of the baddie, Fleshcreep - is clearly the most seasoned actor of the lot. Mead, who is Jack, shines through with the singing voice that won him Any Dream Will Do on BBC TV. Holland, who I’m old enough to remember fondly as Spike in Hi-De-Hi, is perfect as Dame Trott.

And Clary? Well, Clary - aka the Spirit of the Beans - is Clary. Extravagant costumes, and lots of them; dry humour, much of it at the expense of the panto format, the audience and his co-stars, and some wonderful one-liners that go above the heads of the younger crowd members.

That talented quartet doesn’t include the character rated by the youngest in our party (Adam, aged ten) as the star of the show: ventriloquist Paul Zerdin, who, as Simple Simon, with Puppet Sam, delivers a brilliant display of the act of ventriloquism. Watch out for Sam’s scene without Simon too.

The glamour is provided by Robyn Mellor’s beautiful Princess Apricot and Lady-in-waiting Lucy, played well by Wave 105 newsreader Shireen Jordan, a relative newcomer to the panto stage.

And Ian Gledhill’s King Crumble deserves an honourable mention too.

All in all it’s a fantastic couple of hours’ entertainment - and at a proper, lovely old theatre.

And at a time when cinemas are leading the way with hi-tech new features, it’s good to see the world of theatre hitting back and showing it too can be spectacularly innovative.

Until Saturday, January 19. Tickets from 02380 711811 or www.mayflower.org

- STEVE BONE