The Marlowe Theatre pantomime is back in Canterbury for the festive season and this year the theatre and Evolution Pantomimes are co-producing Jack And The Beanstalk. With Kent being placed under tier three COVID restrictions last year, the show couldn’t run in its usual live format in 2020, so it felt extra special to be at the theatre’s 2021 panto press night yesterday evening. My friend and I arrived at the theatre just before 7pm, ready to hear the traditional Marlowe chants, jokes and puns again! Everywhere I turned in the lobby, groups of families and friends seemed to be laughing, smiling and getting in the festive spirit. The annual production brings so much joy to Canterbury and the surrounding towns of East Kent, with Jack And The Beanstalk playing to a roaring crowd last night!
The Marlowe’s resident dame Ben Roddy is back for another year in his twelfth Marlowe pantomime experience! He led the ‘Mother Goose’ cast in 2019 alongside Dr Ranj and Marc Pickering, with Marc also joining the Jack And The Beanstalk cast for 2021 as the primary antagonist ‘Luke Backinanger’. Mother Goose was my first Marlowe panto experience and it definitely opened my eyes to how much of a local treasure the pantomime is. I also quickly learned how much people enjoy watching Ben Roddy as the dame; he is really at home performing on the Marlowe stage to local audiences.
The principal role of Jack Trott is played by Blue’s Duncan James. In act one the cast poke fun at the fact that Ben and Duncan are very close in age, despite the pair portraying a mother and son. Duncan is joined by Strictly Come Dancing ex-professional and theatre performer Joanne Clifton as Fairy Sugarsnap, Milkshake! presenter Nathan Connors as Bobby and theatre actress Billie Chambers as Jess.
A fun adaption of the classic fairytale, Jack And The Beanstalk tells the tale of Jack Trott, his friends and their adventures to the land of the giants in the clouds. Luke Backinanger – the giant’s henchman – arrives in their colourful village and starts demanding money from Jack and his friends. He also threatens to destroy the ecosystem of their village via a weather changing machine. Faced with no other choice, Jack chooses to sell their family cow ‘Sweet Caroline’ so that they can pay Luke Backinanger. Little does Jack know, the mysterious female buyer is in fact Luke Backinanger in disguise and the bag of gold is actually magical beans that aren’t worth anything. When Jack’s friends realise what has happened, they are thoroughly disappointed to hear that he has given up Caroline. The beans are tossed away in disgust, but with the help of Fairy Sugarsnap and a magical watering can, all is not lost for Jack. He must travel up to the land in the clouds and save his town from Luke Backinanger, the evil giant and the weather machine (or so he thinks).
Pop music references
There were so many references to boy bands in Jack And The Beanstalk and I thought this was such a fun decision, given the casting of Duncan James. From the secret book of how to be in a boy band prop to Luke Backinanger’s failed musical dream and his therapy sessions, the theme runs constantly throughout the production. It is a deviation from the core plot of Jack And The Beanstalk, but it gives Luke Backinanger a back story and helps make him a funny and likeable villain.
The Marlowe cart of puns made its annual appearance and this time the puns were dog-themed. It was hilarious how Mother Trott, Jack and Bobby managed to reel off so many canine-themed puns in a row. The famous Marlowe panto bench was also back in full Ghostbusters glory, with the principal cast looking out for ‘something strange’ in the land in the clouds.
Hamilton even made it into the show, with Jack not ‘throwing away his shot’ at climbing the beanstalk and saving the town from Luke Backinanger and the giant! I really appreciated this musical theatre reference and thought it was perfectly timed.
The Marlowe panto is back for good!
I had such a fun evening seeing Jack And The Beanstalk live on stage*. The Marlowe and Evolution Pantomimes have done a fantastic job bringing East Kent’s beloved pantomime back for 2021. Ben Roddy was on fire as Dame/Mother Trott, making the audience burst out laughing on multiple occasions. The cast bounce off each other brilliantly and given last night’s positive audience reaction, the team are off to a fantastic start this season. Jack And The Beanstalk is playing at The Marlowe Theatre until 9th January 2022. A visit to the pantomime would make a great day out this December and tickets can be purchased from the theatre’s website.
Thanks for reading my blog today.
Love Kat xxxx
*Our tickets and programme for Jack And The Beanstalk were gifted in exchange for a review of the performance.