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Brighton Fringe 2014

Jack and the Beans … Talk

Ripley Theatre

Genre: Children's Theatre

Venue: Friends’ Meeting House


Low Down

You thought you knew the story of Jack and the Beanstalk? Think again, as Fringe regulars Ripley theatre bring their own brand of panto, story-theatre and plenty of musical numbers to Brighton.


It’s always a good move to create a watching space for the youngest children on some carpet, mats or rugs at the front of the venue.

Immersion in the story becomes ever more important at children get
used to passively watching the TV screen. Here the children can sit are right in top of the action.
And this is a show that is full of action.  There’s a warm feel to the production, a simple set in soft green – no plastic and garish fluorescence here; well not at the start. The show ramps up and gets madder and madder, without losing hold of its story, though everything does become a bit complicated in places with perhaps a bit too much scripted explanation for the very young ones. Yet set against that complexity is plenty to see and enjoy, delivered by a fully energised cast who belt out songs, leap into dance and physical set pieces with gusto. They make the smallish space feel huge.
We have baseball hatted Jack, who is a more than decent singer,  I found the recorded soundtrack a bit too bassy and muffled and it felt a bit disassociated from the live theatre action. But the tunes were accessible and folded well into the overall mix. In some places it is a bit off-key but in most places it’s heartfully sung and good quality.
This is an endearing show, treading a line between traditional fairy tale and nodding at the contemporary generation with a dose of disco biscuits.
Our pantomime dame did just the trick, suitable kitted out, getting laughs in all the right places.
The production is lit with a mix of natural light and the venue’s own ball lights. It really would have been enhanced by some proper theatre lighting. The simply but well choreographed musical score is very strong, the cast sing well without microphones.
There are heroes and villains (even a Tim Curry-esque baddie with suitable song and dance routine to match) , a fairy and a comedy cow… Or perhaps…
But there’s more than enough to keep the children interested and to elicit more than a few smiles and giggles from the grown ups. There’s a lot of fun and charm in this version of Jack, and I applaud the company for relying on good theatre skills and direct performance.
Some parts are tighter than others. Sometimes it feels there are too
many words And the script is too word-loaded and hurried for the
youngest ones to take it all in.
I’m more than happy to recommend this. I genuinely believe that a show with this musical score and script and the collective talents of this cast would not look out of place in a larger, more professional venue. Had this been a panto at the Pavilion Worthing, it would have gained creditable reviews. That said, despite the lack of proper lighting and better quality sound, the cast deliver an engaging, enjoyable and entertaining piece of children’s story theatre.