Reviewed by Jenny Bray
Jack and the Beans Talk is an interactive puppet show aimed at 3-7 year olds. We went to see it at the Lawrence Batley Theatre in Huddersfield. The theatre itself is fairly easy to find. The majority of the building sits back from the road but the frontage has large signage down it saying ‘theatre’. I find Huddersfield relatively easy to navigate round compared to other cities and the recommended theatre parking, in Market Hall car park, is just off the ring road and within easy walking distance of the theatre. It’s also very reasonable compared to other city centre car parks. I decided to take my children for lunch first and 3 hours parking cost me just £2.70.
This show was held in the Synergy Cellar of the theatre, which you access by going down a set of stairs on the left of the kiosk selling ice cream, sweets and drinks. The box office, for collecting tickets from, is on the opposite side of the theatre, where there is also a bar. All the staff I encountered were friendly and welcoming.
The Synergy Cellar is a smaller, more informal set up than the main theatre and was set with mats at the front for children to sit on and a couple of rows of seats behind for the adults for this particular show. This set up worked really well for this show and audience. It meant that the children were really close to the show, which was great for the interactive elements. The setting had two main parts to the stage at the front and then two layers of rear set, which were also used for characters to move around on at times.
The story is an adaptation of Jack and the beanstalk, as you may expect from the title. There is Jack and his Mum but there are also talking beans. Jack and his Mum go from having plenty of food with a cow, Daisy, who produces plenty of milk, to having no food or money as nothing will grow and Daisy is wasting away so no longer producing milk. They make the decision to sell the cow so Jack takes her off and ends up exchanging her for 5 magic, talking beans. However, his Mum can’t hear them so is not happy and dismisses them as being a bad exchange and throws them out. A giant beanstalk grows and Jack climbs it and finds a rich giant at the top of it. He also realises why everything below has dried up. The giant has stolen something that they need. Jack tries to steal the giant’s gold from him which leads to an interactive chase and an inevitable winner.
I loved the simple but very effective use of the set to show different sizing’s, such as Daisy losing weight, the size of the beanstalk and different perspectives of Jack and the giant in their settings. The addition of talking beans was funny and worked really well as an extra to the tale.
The show is the mastermind of Garlic Theatre production company, who specialise in putting on this kind of puppet show for young children. It was just over 45 minutes long, which was perfect for the young audience as it was over before too many bladders were full or children wanted to do other things! I took my 6, 4 and 2 year olds along and they all sat there mesmerised for the whole production. Although the show is aimed at young children there were also a couple of lines added in to amuse the adults.
At the end you could go up and see and touch the puppets and talk to Iklooshar, who had been the puppeteer and storyteller. My 2 year old loved that the chicken came and pecked his hand when he held it out. He then declared that he loved the chicken character the most. My older ones also liked Daisy, the cow, and Jack. I thought Daisy looked very cute, with her large set eyes that looked sadly down and then to the audience for sympathy at points! (I was pleased to hear that she went on to live a very happy life in France, producing milk again to make camembert!)
I love that there is this kind of show, that is accessible for young children, to get children into going to the theatre. This isn’t a huge, all singing, all dancing stage production. The stage setting is quite basic. It is however a very reasonably priced puppet show in a more intimate setting which kept the young audience, and their accompanying adults, entertained and enthralled.
Jack and the Beans Talk is currently on tour around the UK, for more information and tour dates visit www.garlictheatre.org.uk.
For other shows at the Lawrence Batley Theatre visit www.thelbt.org.
Lawrence Batley Theatre, Queen’s Square, Queen Street, Huddersfield, HD1 2SP