By Ruth Meech
JACK AND THE BEANSTALK, Sunninghill School, Dorchester
THEY promised that they would bring us adventure and that is just what they did – in spadeloads and with so much more besides.
For almost an hour the young cast had their audience in the palms of their hands as songs, drama and a healthy dollop of slapstick blended together to tell the tale of hapless Jack. And, most impressively of all, no one forgot their lines – a huge undertaking for seven, eight and nine-year-olds who had to fit rehearsals in with a packed academic timetable.
The lynchpins of the show were Christopher Williams, whose Jack blossomed from brow-beaten wimp to save-the-day hero as the play progressed, and Alice Palm, a cantankerous old bat of a mother who had the audience either in fits of laughter or quaking in its boots.
Fran Hayes played the magical bean seller as an Arfur Daley character – shiftily opening her big red coat to show beans, instead of cheap watches, pinned to the lining – while Natasha Walker was a smashing front end of Daisy the cow, complete with fantastic model head.
But this tale wasn’t just about the main actors, and the supporting characters were brilliant to a fault. In the straw-strewn farmyard scenes, the children adopted the characteristics of the creatures they played with gusto, topped by wonderfully creative wire and paper mache heads.
When the giant appeared, depicted by highly skilled shadow puppetry and voiced by Grace Cairnes and Alec Dodds, the whole hall seemed to shake.
At the end of the show the parents – who had been given cones of popcorn to keep them quiet during the performance – clapped and whooped and demanded an encore.
Jack may have been the hero of the hour, but on the day all of the performers were stars.