John Barrowman, who plays Captain Jack in the series, was up for his 3rd consecutive stint in pantomime at the SECC. We'd missed the last two years, but, spurred on by seeing his Torchwood colleagues at Midnight, we decided to give it a go.
The irony of Captain Jack starring in Jack and the Beanstalk made it all ummissable. It must have taken some courage for the Krankies to take part in it after "Jimmy's" accident 8 years ago, when she fractured her skull falling off a beanstalk in an earlier production and I have a lot of respect for her that she was willing to climb it again - although this time visibly very well harnessed.
If the Krankies' humour had matched their bravery, then it would have been a flawless show. Sadly, they seemed to have forgotten that it's not 1977 any more. In fact, one of their ad libs was so bad that it wouldn't even have been funny 35 years ago. I thought we'd moved past taking the mickey out of other people's accents. Anyway, that line clearly didn't raise any laughs and Barrowman, who seemed very much like the Responsible Adult on stage, attempted a rescue. What he said was "You thought you were going to make the papers for the bed sharing......"
When people have hit the headlines for salacious reasons, there is definitely an argument that a bit of humorous self deprecation can defuse any tension in their next public appearance. So, one joke about the Krankies' swinging past I could cope with. That pudding was well over-egged, though, with jokes that went over the kids' heads and made the adults cringe. I may well be being unfair to the pair, though, because Bob thought they were funny all the way through with the exception of that ad lib.
It's easy to see how Barrowman has become one of the great light entertainers in the country. He owned that stage. You hear tales of his hilarious on-set antics which are undoubtedly true, but he gets the job done. He was very clearly in charge of what was happening on stage. He was down as a co-director, but even so, I think he'd have done that anyway. He has an incredible stage presence. I have to say that, even at 24 rows distance, he looked mighty good. The tights and boots helped, of course. We wondered on the way over whether he would speak in his Scottish or American accent. Actually, it was both, and he switched between the two at random. Rumour had it, too, that he'd arrived late at the theatre, something you would never have guessed.
The plot seemed almost incidental to much of the first half, which seemed to be about quality banter and mucking about on stage. Heavens above, there was even a real live horse on stage at one point - and very well behaved it was, too. It didn't matter, though. The 3D effects in the second half were really good - and actually, I kept my eyes on the cast on the stage. They obviously had to run and lurch and jump when the graphics demanded it and they did so very well. I am sure it is much more difficult to keep that up than it looks.
I also need to say lots of good things about Divine Creswell, who had been drafted in to play the fairy at the last minute due to cast illness. She was really good - a couple of minor wobbles, but you wouldn't have realised if you hadn't been told that she had been thrust into it.
Pete Gallacher played he baddie, Fleshcreep and was everything you want a panto baddie to be. Just menacing enough to work the audience up into a booing frenzy, but not horrid enough to scare the kids.
We had a great time and and came out smiling. Barrowman certainly carried the show and if it lost the Krankies next year, I wouldn't weep. It is well worth seeing and there are still a few days left - it's on till 6th January, so if you fancy a good laugh, you can book tickets here.