It has taken no less than four writers to assemble the Lyric's first panto in 20 years: Richard Bean, Che Walker, Joel Horwood and Morgan Lloyd Malcolm. The result, even by the accommodating standards of the genre, is a mishmash that strives over-zealously to appeal to different constituencies.
Jack is a local lad working in Hammersmith market and living in a bean-tin with his impoverished mum. For those who like fairytales, we get not only the beanstalk but a giant who runs a Roald Dahl-like sweet factory based on slave labour. Aficionados of offbeat comedy are catered for by Peepolykus's Javier Marzan who narrates the show as a Spanish bull that mutates into a cow. Traditionalists are offered a rosy-cheeked dame dispensing double entendres. Add in an array of puppets, including snails, a goose and a rubbery-jowled giant voiced by Patrick Stewart, and you have a show that might have been put together by a team of marketing executives.
Its main fault is that it often loses sight of the story: Jack's sale of the cow and ascent of the beanstalk are thrown too lightly away. Matters are at their liveliest when Martyn Ellis's jovial dame is roguishly delivering one-liners in which I detect the hand of Bean: "I call this my grenade dress – pull all the pins out and it's every man for himself."
Angela Wynter's wicked Evelyn Greedly also has a robust line in villainy, and Sean Kearns is engaging as her slow-witted Irish accomplice. It's all moderately jolly but, in throwing so many ingredients into the panto stew, it ends up lacking a distinctive taste.
Until 3 January. Box office: 0871 2211729.
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Guardian: Jack and the Beanstalk | Theatre review
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