Theatre review: Jack and the Beanstalk

Greg McHugh ' Gary Tank Commander ' gives a storming and funny performance as Jack's naughty brother
Greg McHugh ' Gary Tank Commander ' gives a storming and funny performance as Jack's naughty brother
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IT’S touch and go, in the big annual panto at the SEC, whether Jack will ever make it up to the giant’s castle in the sky. The good fairy – Spirit of the Beans – has no idea how to make it happen, since her magic only works down on Earth; and everyone else, from the King to Jack’s daft brother Gary, is equally short of ideas.

SECC, Glasgow ***

So when the beans finally work their magic, and Jack ascends the giant beanstalk into the castle, it should be a big moment, with the panto audience cheering him to the echo; but instead, at the SEC, he’s greeted with a blank silence, as the audience chomps on its interval ice-cream, and waits for someone more interesting to appear.

Making the titular hero or heroine matter, even if only slightly, is a key part of successful panto-making; and it’s so completely absent, in this Qdos script co-written by Alan McHugh and Jonathan Kiley, that the panto feels like a giant doughnut, glittery and tasty, but with a hole in the middle.

Which is a pity; because everything else is in place for a brilliant traditional Glasgow panto, not least a storming and often hilarious central performance from Greg McHugh – aka Gary Tank Commander–as Jack’s naughty brother, eager to upstage him at every turn. Gayle Telfer Stevens and Louise McCarthy, more famous as The Dolls, make a fine double-act as daft aunties Agnes and Sadie, not only meshing perfectly with McHugh’s Gary, but twinkling with emerging star quality in their own right.

And with a 3-D sequence involving a real visual wow-factor, this emerges as a Jack In The Beanstalk full of signs of a bright comedy future for Scottish panto; but slightly lacking the heart that makes for a truly great Christmas show.

JOYCE MCMILLAN

Until 7 January