Jackpot! New Wolsey brings panto magic to theatre and home audiences

Steve Simmonds as Dame Dolly Durden.

New Wolsey's Jack in the Beanstalk is showing now in Ipswich this Christmas starring Steve Simmonds as Dame Dolly Durden. - Credit: Mike Kwasniak

Jack and his magic beanstalk are back to bring rock 'n' roll and panto hijinx to Ipswich once more. 

The same night, the same show, our team were in their seats in the auditorium and sofa respectively - and let's just say you'll hit the jackpot whether you choose to livestream or be in the audience this Christmas. 

From the auditorium  

You can almost imagine the smell of the farmyard at the home of Jack (Neil Urquhart) and his mum Dame Dolly Durden (Steve Simmonds) with our hero aiming to marry the girl of his dreams Jill (Daniella Piper).  

Danielle Piper as Jill and Neil Urquhart as Jack in this year's pantomime Jack and the Beanstalk. 

Danielle Piper as Jill and Neil Urquhart as Jack in this year's pantomime Jack and the Beanstalk. - Credit: Mike Kwasniak

The script is quick to ensure that you are invested in a sweet romance with no love needing to be won but saved, especially when there is an evil giant who wants to eat all the boys and girls.  

Building the tension is Nicola Bryan as Fleshcreep, the giant’s number two, who oozes with the charisma any sneering nemesis needs to be armed with to get the crowd booing from their first appearance.

For those who love slapstick, this show is packed with every bonk, boing and honk you could wish for and this chaotic level of humour only encourages the audience to use their voice to get involved.

Nicola Bryan as Fleshcreep in Jack and the Beanstalk at the New Wolsey Theatre. 

Nicola Bryan as Fleshcreep in Jack and the Beanstalk at the New Wolsey Theatre. - Credit: Mike Kwasniak

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Are you really at a panto if you’re not joining in?   

And where there is audience participation there is a carefully chosen playlist. The one thing that has always made the New Wolsey panto the hit that it is is the talent of the cast juggling many instruments, and harmonies, while seamlessly transitioning through the story.  

The creative team has clearly worked hard to make sure that those who are not in the theatre are strongly immersed in the panto. It really is fascinating to watch how productions are utilising this hybrid to reach their audience.

You will not be disappointed by the set and the effects. There are many giant surprises in store and they will come thick and fast as if Fairy Aubergine is waving her magic leek to cast one magical moment after another.  

Natasha Magigi as Fairy Aubergine in Jack and the Beanstalk. 

Natasha Magigi as Fairy Aubergine in Jack and the Beanstalk. - Credit: Mike Kwasniak

The script handles the impact of Covid with sensitive humour and there is absolutely one moment that is worth being in the auditorium for as the cast brings back panto magic... but no spoilers here!  

Audience participation is at fever pitch as we reach the end of this fantastic show which gives every character their moment to shine.  

Steve Simmonds as Dame Dolly Durden.

New Wolsey's Jack in the Beanstalk is showing now in Ipswich this Christmas starring Steve Simmonds as Dame Dolly Durden. - Credit: Mike Kwasniak

From the sofa 

If you think back to December 2019, the idea of watching a pantomime from your sofa would have been considered bizarre.  

But after a tiring day, cuddling up with my seven-year-old and some popcorn felt like a luxury.  

We were sent the login for Jack and the Beanstalk live stream well in advance of the show so that we could wait for the panto to start and sensed the anticipation as the New Wolsey auditorium began to fill up.  

Watching the first act from home went without a glitch – we could see the stage perfectly and hear all of the catchy live music and live singing clearly. 

New Wolsey's Jack in the Beanstalk is showing now in Ipswich this Christmas starring James Haggie as Billy. 

New Wolsey's Jack in the Beanstalk is showing now in Ipswich this Christmas starring James Haggie as Billy. - Credit: Mike Kwasniak

The cast certainly didn’t forget about the audience at home, occasionally giving them a cheeky mention. 

And the atmosphere from the theatre transferred across nicely, we were doing our best to join in with all the audience participation and my daughter giggled along when it was funny and hid at some of the bits she found scary.  

New Wolsey's Jack in the Beanstalk is showing now in Ipswich this Christmas starring Danielle Piper.

New Wolsey's Jack in the Beanstalk is showing now in Ipswich this Christmas starring Danielle Piper. - Credit: Mike Kwasniak

The panto was peppered with video clips of Jack and his pals, including Betsie the cow– this translated really well onto our TV screen. 

It was a nice touch to be able to spot some familiar sights around Ipswich and laugh at the odd joke about ‘Sparrow Road’.  

New Wolsey's Jack in the Beanstalk is showing now in Ipswich this Christmas starring Joe Butcher. 

New Wolsey's Jack in the Beanstalk is showing now in Ipswich this Christmas starring Joe Butcher. - Credit: Mike Kwasniak

Throughout act two the video team at the New Wolsey carried on with their stellar work, always giving us the best view of the action.  

We had a good view of the full stage set and of course the key characters when it was necessary. 

Being honest by the end of the show we were flagging slightly, it had been a long day.  

But as we saw the audience inside the New Wolsey take to their feet for a dance at the end, we had a sudden burst of energy and joined in.  

And then instead of a drive home we could roll straight into bed.  

So, if you are feeling nervous about going into a crowded theatre, or simply don’t like going out in the cold and dark, I would definitely recommend the New Wolsey’s live stream option this Christmas.  

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