Giant show prepares to hit town

Think you know what the cast and crew of Jack and the Beanstalk have in store for you?

Wayne Savage

IPSWICH: Think you know what the cast and crew of Jack and the Beanstalk have in store for you?

Trust me; you're in for a big surprise.

It was evil Blunderbore's first rehearsal at the Regent last night - and if he did put a foot wrong I wouldn't want to be the one to tell him.

The theatre has made good on its promise of the largest giant to be seen on any English pantomime stage. Standing at around 12-14ft, bringing Blunderbore to life has been an equally massive task.

“People who may have been to a panto before might have seen a giant, but not as big and impressive as this,” said Alan Boyd, production manager for producers Duo Pantomimes.

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“It's usually a booming voice or a man in a pair of raised shoes and a bit of a big head. We've used this one before and as soon as he walks on, the audience are in awe.”

If you don't want the magic spoilt, you'd best stop reading now.

Blunderbore is actually a huge animatronic puppet - weighing about six stone when fully loaded up because of all the metalwork - with a human operator inside.

His voice will be provided off stage by Duo Pantomimes' company manager Spencer K Gibbons.

“The human inside is on 3ft stilts with this massive body and head on him. The guy's harnessed in like a racing car driver, so the puppet becomes him. It's like having a giant rucksack on your back,” explained Alan.

“Even though the giant's so big - the hands are about 2ft wide - the operator can operate the hands and fingers with a series of pulleys and controls.

“He does all the internal operations. Then he has a partner in the wings who controls the eyes and the mouth, totally animating Blunderbore's face when he speaks, so the guy inside can concentrate on getting from A to B because it's a massive structure.”

It's so huge that the body has to be lowered on to operator Daniel Endr�sz using a crane-like system in the wings once he's in position.

“For the first few days we'll have him on a safety line, just in case he falls forward. Once we get to performance it's purely him and it just makes it better, you don't want to see strings on a puppet,” Alan added.

“Spectacular is the only way to describe it. It takes a very skilled operator.”

So, there's a lot resting on the shoulders of 21-year-old Daniel, who only stepped into the pivotal role on Monday.

David Mansfield, general manager of the Regent, said: “The producers had somebody lined up to play the giant. They actually went off for giant training - if you can believe such a thing exists - but they came back and said actually, they didn't think they had the physical endurance to be able to do it. So we had to find someone else.”

Daniel, from King's Lynn, got the call at the start of the week. He has performed in festivals and circuses since he was very young as well the Circus of Horrors at the Regent recently,

He said: “Being in the suit was nerve-wracking at first, because it's so heavy. It's just a matter of practice and getting in that comfort zone to be able to do all the acting while in it.”

Jack and the Beanstalk is at the Ipswich Regent from December 19 to January 10. For tickets, call the box office on 01473 433100 or visit www.ipswichregent.co.uk

Don't miss this Friday's Evening Star for more behind the scenes magic.