Clive Rowe is astonishing: Hackney Empire’s Jack and the Beanstalk reviewed

Jack and the Beanstalk is a big, sprawling family show that opens with a baffling gesture. A booming voiceover announces that Hackney is being menaced by some unseen threat. Enter an evil monster, Funella Fleshcreep, who wears facial moisturiser made from liquefied avocado. This green-cheeked ogre is challenged by the virtuous characters, Jack Trot and Simple Simon, who must defeat her and deliver Hackney from danger. The show starts to finds its way once Clive Rowe appears as the dairymaid, Dame Trot, who needs to milk a dysfunctional, dried-up cow. There are few performers in Britain who are as versatile as Rowe. He can do broad slapstick as well as

How real is the performing arts exodus?

Think back 12 months to when you first felt the pandemic. Not when you first read about Covid-19, but the moment of impact — the lurch in the stomach as it hit you that this time, it really wasn’t going to be OK. For Emma Cook, a freelance stage manager on the John Cleese farce Bang Bang!, the moment came during a rare week off. ‘I was sitting in a restaurant near the Bush Theatre in London, waiting to go and see The High Table, and I got a message from a friend who had just flown back from overseas: “Why are the theatres all closed?”. I thought, no they’re

Deserves to be a permanent winter fixture: Potted Panto at the Garrick reviewed

Potted Panto is a 70-minute parody presented by two burlesque comedians. Jeff is a tall, playful bungler and his colleague, Dan, is a squat, dour authoritarian who likes to see everything done efficiently. They leap on stage and declare their plan to present a compendium of the best-known Christmas shows. ‘All six of them,’ says Dan. ‘No, all twelve,’ contradicts Jeff, unfurling a list that includes classics from the TV schedules like A Christmas Carol and Das Boot. He insists that these non-pantos are included in their panto rundown. And so a war of opposites begins. Jeff is all appetite and instinct while Dan stands for reason and method. Or,

Buttercup the cow was so convincing I felt quite moved: Jack and the Beanstalk reviewed

This pantomime was filmed by ‘legendary Blue Peter presenter’ Peter Duncan in his back garden over the summer. It was intended for online release only but it’s also gone into cinemas because this is the world we now live in. Oh no it isn’t. Oh yes it is. Oh no it isn’t. Seriously, it is. Why are you arguing like this? Stop it. As many theatres are still closed, and as most pantomimes have been cancelled, it makes sense to show it in cinemas and for cinemas to have something to show. During normal times the Christmas period is The Favourite and Portrait of a Lady and, while we’re at

A silly, bouncy delight: Glyndebourne’s In the Market for Love reviewed

Offenbach at Glyndebourne! Short of Die Soldaten with a picnic break or a period-instrument revival of Jerry Springer: The Opera, it’s hard to imagine a less probable operatic outcome— even this year. I mean, Offenbach: the saucy skewerer of middle-class pretension; the dazzling, vulgar arriviste of 19th-century opera. It couldn’t have been more incongruous had the sideburned showman himself razzed up, bass thumping, in a pimped Renault 5 and started pulling skids on the ha-ha. He’s never been staged at Glyndebourne, and it’s not hard to guess why. The last time I saw an Offenbach one-acter done in the UK, it was Croquefer, a medieval farce that climaxes with the