Pantomime Review: Jack and the Beanstalk - Brunton Theatre, Musselburgh ✭✭✭✭

Review by Graeme Shield

The leaves have barely fallen off the trees and yet a bloomin’ big beanstalk has sprouted proudly from the Brunton Theatre in Musselburgh as they present this year’s pantomime, ‘Jack & The Beanstalk’.

This variation of the story is set in ‘the Honest Toun’ where a spate of mysterious robberies have left King Angus, Princess Eva and the townsfolk distressed.  Well-meaning Jack is tasked by his Mammy to sell their beloved Jean (the coo) to raise badly needed funds. Not before long, two thieving crooks – Cronk & Squelch – convince Jack to trade poor Jean for a bag of magic beans. On finding this out, an enraged Mammy chucks the beans oot the windae, and overnight they grow into a magnificent beanstalk, stretching high into the clouds and to the castle of an evil Giant...

It’s all change at the Brunton as incoming writer & director Mark Cox (of Still Game/Chewin The Fat fame) overloads his script with local references and skews the well-told tale with daftly surreal humour (which this reviewer loved). The set & costume design by Robin Peoples is imaginative and sumptuous, and are brought to life with excellent lighting design by Simon Hayes.

James Rottger’s Jack is charming, daft and likeable (and a few of the teenage girls nearby certainly didn’t mind his looks!) and Kim Shepherd gives life to a by-the-numbers Princess Eva, and her singing is an absolute joy.  Shonagh Price is fun as Wee Margaret, Rodney Matthews gives good gusto as the not-so-jolly Giant, while Robert Read’s great dame Mammy is perfectly played.  The show also benefits from the comedy pairing of Richard Conlon and Mark McDonnell as Cronk & Squelch who are absurd, hapless and not particularly villainous. 

The audiences will lap up all the usual staples of the pantomime – sweeties flung to the baying crowds, an energetic singalong, a sprinkling of rhyming couplets and plenty of opportunities (where the script allows) for audience interaction.  The more discerning panto connoisseur (a ridiculous oxymoron) may lament that the rigid direction dampens potential moments of exciting improvisation while some elements that should feel tight and well-rehearsed, were a bit watery around the edges.

In addition, the show could have benefited from a few more well known songs to really give the audience something to enjoy – indeed, the only two musical moments that stood out were a note-perfect Shepherd singing Taylor Swift’s “Love Story” and Read & Matthews’ hilarious take on one of this year’s biggest hits “All About That Bass”.

These are minor footnotes, however, in what is a very enjoyable pantomime from the Brunton. Whereas previous years have presented productions that have been more than the sum of their parts, this year producer Lesley Smith has wisely combined her excellent cast with a much tighter script and superb production values.

It’s worth remembering that you’ll pay twice as much for an experience half as good in other venues, so trade a few beans and sell the coo for your tickets to ‘Jack & The Beanstalk’ at the Brunton before it’s too late.

‘Jack & The Beanstalk’ is at The Brunton Theatre, Musselburgh until 3rd Jan 2015 (including a 2pm autism-friendly performance on Sat 3rd Jan).

Tickets start from £14.75 and are available from or by phoning the Box Office on 0131 665 2240