Jack and the Beanstalk II: Return of the Farmer @ Eastwood Park Theatre, Glasgow
Eastwood Park Theatre’s Christmas offering is an enthusiastic and punchy – but slightly disappointing – sequel to the story we all know and love
Down in the southside of Glasgow, nestled among the trees, is a stirring of Christmas cheer as Eastwood Park Theatre presents Jack and the Beanstalk II: Return of the Farmer, a new sequel to the classic fairytale. Written by Andy McGregor and directed by Julie Brown, the show continues the story of the eponymous Jack – the man who sold his cow for magical beans, grew a beanstalk, and got rich – by telling how Jack, or to give him his full name, Jack McJack, turned those riches into Giffnock's most successful supermarket.
The show is a noble attempt to bring something new to Pantoland. It hinges on The Farmer (Ross Mann), who sold McJack (played with admirable gusto by Joshua Aitken) the magic beans, returning to demand his share of McJack's lucrative retail empire. But Return of the Farmer suffers from a flimsiness which you can just about get away with in Pantoland, but it also shows the strength of the original fairytale.
The simplicity and clarity of the old story, retold in the first act, has conflict and a somewhat dodgy moral ending, just like all great panto should. Return of The Farmer, while brimming with the enthusiasm and creativity from the cast, leaves you wishing that they had just stuck to the original story.
The show's biggest strength is the four cast members. The Farmer, played with outlandish ticks and menacing aplomb by Mann, holds much of the story together. Evil gets help from Sarah McCardie, appearing as both McJack's long-suffering mother and as a shifty Witch. Meanwhile, McJack's love interest, Alice, is played as a spiky, karate-chopping heroine by Kim Allen.
The set, designed by Claire Halleran, is more functional than impressive but it does the trick. Brown’s direction is enough to keep us watching – though McGregor’s script might need some work – while the songs are catchy and keep the audience in the palm of the actors' hands.
As an exercise in great entertainment and a good night out, the production is a success; as a follow up to the legend of Jack and the Beanstalk, the jury remains out.