You know how you can work out the age of a tree by counting the circles? Well in York, you can work out the age of a person by how long they’ve been going to the York Theatre Royal panto. I’m not about to give my age away in public, but let’s just say that we’re talking decades since it became a non-negotiable part of our family festivities. From March onwards, I used to nag my mum to find a date we could all make and buy tickets. Now she’s gone, it’s the turn of my eldest (8 tomorrow) to insist that we go every year.
So I took him along to this year’s show, Jack and the Beanstalk, with the usual sense of trepidation: would it be as funny and silly as we expect and want it to be? After various traumas for the stars of the show – Martin Barrass’s near-fatal accident and Berwick Kaler’s heart bypass – would it have slowed down or lost its mojo? I’m delighted to say that we needn’t have worried: Jack and the Beanstalk is a Christmas cracker of a show that had us laughing throughout. The cast deliver impressive performances, and Berwick and Martin show no signs of their traumatic twelve months. We particularly enjoyed Luke Adamson’s Useless Eustace, and would return for him alone.
From the opening number – essentially a warning to the audience to expect the panto to be a load of rubbish – to the wagon-wheel-chucking ending, it’s a fast-paced, entertaining, rib-tickling show that ticks all the boxes for returning fans. They haven’t tinkered with the winning formula: expect sparkling sets, catchy songs, polished dance routines, a brilliant baddie, slapstick routines, a silly film sequence and glitches galore. There might even be a plot if you look hard enough, albeit with some bizarre twists that bring Storm Troopers, Ewoks and even the Addams Family to the stage. All standard fare for regulars, but it might leave newbies baffled and reaching for their return train ticket. Our only advice to that would be: keep coming back for the next decade or so. You’ll either fall in love with it, or you’ll be brainwashed like the rest of us. Either way, you’ll leave happy.