By Carol Twinch
Resident of Rendham
Antony Costa has also appeared in Grange Hill and I'm A Celebrity...
Jack & The Beanstalk needed to hit the spot pretty quickly as I was among those who sneaked in after curtain-up at the Ipswich Regent, feeling slightly harried as the Park & Ride bus timetable had succumbed to the prevailing weather conditions.
But within minutes the snow and ice was forgotten as Jack (Antony Costa, formerly with the boy-band Blue) was on stage, the whole thing already in full swing with lots of small voices shouting 'behind you!' and waving flashing light-wheels.
The story of how Jack, whose family has been reduced to penury, sets about restoring the family fortunes is one of the oldest pantomimes.
This version involves Jack's brother, Simple Simon (Carl Johns) and their mother, Dame Trott whose fashion sense is entirely out of this world.
In order to pay the bills, Dame Trott (infused with huge stage energy by Ken Morley, best known for playing Reg Holdsworth in Coronation Street) is persuaded to part with her beloved house cow Daisy.
Dame Trott's spectacular bean costume impressed one young girl
Jack drags a reluctant Daisy off to market but is intercepted by the disguised, villainous Fleshcreep (excellently portrayed by James Mackenzie).
All four of Daisy's knees knock with fear as Jack takes the bag of gold and she is led off by Fleshcreep whose evil laugh sent shudders down our spines, while obviously thrilling the many fans of the CBBC game show Raven which has James Mackenzie as host in the title role.
Jack shows the 'gold' to King Ambrosias (Eddie Caswell) and his beautiful daughter, Princess Tamara (Carina Gillespie), but Dame Trott discovers they have been duped by Fleshcreep and the bag holds not gold but beans.
Thoroughly fed up with Jack's incompetence, and lamenting the loss of Daisy, Dame Trott sends her two sons off to bed and throws the beans out into the garden. During the night an enormous beanstalk grows up.
Eggs, beans and the giant
The interval was an opportunity to do a quick vox pop of a few children as to their favourite characters.
I asked one small boy what he had liked best and he said 'the giant' whereupon his mother pointed out that 'the giant hasn't been on yet'!
His face must have been a picture when, in the second half, the fabulous Giant Blanderbore made his entrance.
Dame Trott's Christmas puddings catch Jack's eye
'Fe, fi, fo, fum' resonated round the theatre as Fleshcreep and his attendant troupe of cockroaches hand over the kidnapped Princess Tamara to the giant.
Will Jack find his way up the beanstalk to vanquish Giant Blanderbore, capture the hen that lays the golden eggs, and win the hand of Princess Tamara? I'm not giving anything away!
Giant Blanderbore, who lays claim to being the largest animatronic giant ever seen on an English panto stage, came top of the favourites list among the young audience.
One little girl liked the 'tin of beans' best, which was one of the many fantastic costumes sported by Dame Trott!
All in all the proof of a successful pantomime is reflected on the children's faces and listening to their excited chatter as they left the theatre.
It had, indeed, hit the spot.
Jack & The Beanstalk runs at
Ipswich Regent Theatre
19 December 2009 - 10 January 2010. Ring 01473 433100 for details.