PREVIEW: JACK AND THE BEANSTALK. THE MALTINGS, DECEMBER 13-29
LITTLE Wolf Productions are waving their panto wand again and looking to bring some razzle dazzle with their latest pantomime ‘Jack & The Beanstalk’.
The theatre company has earned its share of admirers in Berwick over the past few years and deservedly so thanks to fantastic tales of ‘Aladdin’ and ‘Sleeping Beauty’.
Now it is back for more, with the 2012 offering opening at The Maltings next week.
Little Wolf founders Alan Bowles and Morgan Brind are once again at the helm of a talented cast, some of whom have tread the boards in Berwick, others who will be performing in the town for the first time.
Making his Berwick debut is Ben Yates, who has scored the leading role of Jack fresh from drama college.
He is enjoying being part of a cast who can count a few panto pros amongst their number.
“‘Jack and the Beanstalk’ is certainly a terrific first job,” he told ‘The Guide’.
“I auditioned for Alan and Morgan in October and found out I’d got the part shortly after. I am feeling the pressure a bit because, after all, the show is called ‘Jack & the Beanstalk’, but it is just great to be working with such an amazing bunch of people. Some of them can put their scripts down, completely improvise and still be fantastic.”
Joining Ben as Berwick debutants are Katie Brennan (Fairy Story) and Leona O’Sullivan who wears an array of glamorous gowns as Princess Jillian but also has a sword fight and is a trained kick boxer. Quite a contrast!
Returning to The Maltings after a two-year hiatus is Dan Smith, who was last heard sending a shiver down the spines of audiences as Abanazar in 2010’s ‘Aladdin’. He is looking forward to doing more of the same as the Giant’s right-hand man Cesspit.
“Having spent most of the year in Pitlochry experiencing hail and gale force winds, Berwick seems like a bit of a summer holiday,” he joked.
Ross Graham and David Simpson give a local flavour to proceedings, taking on the roles of the Giant and Stewart the Steward respectively. They also each share half of the obligatory panto cow.
The cow could be in danger of putting Morgan’s Dame Trott into the shade, but with a larger wardrobe than ever before he’s pulling out all the stops to make a big impression.
“Everything is bigger this year,” he enthused. “We had some really good feedback for ‘Aladdin’ and ‘Sleeping Beauty’, but we love a challenge and we like the pressure of having to go one better.
“It’s really sweet to come back to Berwick and we’re starting to feel a bit like Berwick’s advent calendar now. We’ve become part of people’s Christmas.
“I think I’ve got eight costume changes this year. The frockage has gone up a notch and some of the outfits are definitely out there.”
Overseeing ‘Jack and the Beanstalk’ is director Louella Foyle, who is also the narrator. She thinks the story has something for everyone in the audience to identify with.
“You just have to look at the journey Jack goes on,” she explains. “He starts off as this young guy just plodding through life, but things happen which force him to grow up. The story is told through everybody, and many characters go through their own rites of passage.
“I’m blessed to be working with a terrific cast and a fabulous musical director in Peter Kenworthy.”
Choreographer Alan, who is once again the clown of Little Wolf’s panto pack, jokes: “We have this terrible habit of hiring talented actors rather than bad celebrities.”
He added: “I love playing the fall guy. This year I’m Simple Simon, Jack’s brother and I get covered in more gunge than ever before. It’s fantastic!”
Joking aside, Alan is very quick to praise the local children involved in the show, who for the third year running have shown that Berwick definitely has talent.
“They’ve been amazing once again,” he said. “It’s good this year because we’ve got a really good mix of seasoned performers and kids who haven’t done a show with us before.”
Morgan Brind added: “We had three times more people show up to auditions then ever before.
“Prior to the auditions we set ourselves an absolute limit of having eight children in each team, but we’ve ended up having ten. We weren’t mean enough to turn them down. The talent was exceptional.”
•‘Jack and The Beanstalk’ opens on Thursday, December 13.