JOYCE MCMILLAN on JACK AND THE BEANSTALK at the Brunton Theatre, Musselburgh, for The Scotsman 8.12.14.
3 stars ***
IT’S A GREAT old story about poor folks rebelling against the rich and powerful who rob them blind; but there’s not much room for the rich, deep resonances of the Jack And The Beanstalk story in this jolly, primary-coloured romp of a panto at the Brunton in Musselburgh. Written and directed by Mark Cox, this version belts through the story in an hour and three quarters including a long ice-cream interval, and often barely troubles to impart the basics of the story; the giant, whose raids on the modest property of the people of Musselburgh form the basis of the story, is hardly mentioned until the moment when James Rottger’s good-lookig Jack decides to mount the beanstalk, in an effort to recover the stolen goods.
If it plays fast-and-loose with the story, though, the Musselburgh panto delivers lashings of jolly comedy and rowdy audience participation, right down to the final song-sheet. It has a distinguished pair of villains in Richard Conlon and Mark McDonnell as the giant’s henchmen, a gorgeous good fairy in Shonagh Price, a lovable pantomime cow, and a handsome if slightly hesitant Dame in Robert Reid. And if the absence of the show’s familiar Musselburgh backdrops is much to be regretted, at least this panto ends with a rousing song in praise of “the Honest Toun”, as the Brunton’s indispensable team of tiny dancers hoof away in grand style, and the entire audience sings its heart out, celebrating a community that still seems to know the meaning of the word, and to enjoy it, too.