AFTER the all-too-familiar scenario of Covid in the cast scuppering performances up to Christmas Eve, Jack And The Beanstalk is back up and running for its last week of shows at the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough.
What’s more, for those unable to head to the East Coast, Nick Lane’s stage adaptation can be enjoyed at home in a film capture of the Christmas show via the SJT website until midnight on Monday, January 31.
From the SJT team that delivered The Snow Queen, Treasure Island, Alice In Wonderland, A (Scarborough) Christmas Carol and Pinocchio comes Lane’s typically imaginative take on the beanstalk-climbing story by Benjamin Tabart and others, directed by Gemma Fairlie, with music and lyrics by Simon Slater and a set design by Helen Coyston.
Lane has taken hold of the traditional fairytale, re-envisioning it as a scary rumour going round town of a meaner than mean giant building a castle above the coastal clouds of Scarborough.
In Lane’s version, Jack had started the rumour by accident, but given that he seems to know more about this monster than anyone else, he is the obvious choice to head up that weird beanstalk he grew in the garden to destroy the beast. No problem, thinks Jack. Go up the most unpopular child in school; come down a hero. After all, it is only a rumour. Isn’t it?
“My thinking is that in an era when kids, even at the age of eight and nine, some have phones, some are on social media, everyone has to grow up so quickly, but Jack is still growing up, still a boy, still using his imagination, left behind by his peer group, as he still lives in his head,” says Nick.
“When he talks about a giant in the sky, no-one believes him. The cool kid at school just thinks he’s a nerd, so the story is that whole zero-to-hero thing.”
Lane has made a significant change in the balance of the story. “It’s quite male, the original story, so I thought, ‘how would you integrate changes relevant for now?’,” he says.
“It’s become much more a tale of Jack and Jill, who’s more cool and savvier than Jack in one way, but in other ways is naïve, so they help each other, in the tradition of the buddy-buddy story.”
Two further elements are prominent in Lane’s sixth winter show for the SJT. Firstly, “Jack And The Beanstalk is just a fairytale, not a traditional Christmas show, so I have tried to ‘Christmas it up’,” he says.
Secondly, he likes to emphasise the Scarborough setting of his SJT shows. “I think that came from when I worked at Hull Truck, pushing that sense of place, when people have a long association with a building and a place,” says Nick.
“You recognise that theatre not only challenges people, but it also celebrates its community, and Scarborough is a great community. Here, it first came from A (Scarborough) Christmas, researching what people like to do at Christmas in Scarborough. It’s worth doing that so that a show feels ‘of us’.”
Adapting to changing Covid restrictions in 2020, Lane had to re-write The Snow Queen as a solo show for Polly Lister, having first written a script for a cast of five. “I’d done solo shows before, so when the decision came from on high, I was able to re-do it, and Paul [SJT artistic director Paul Robinson] was very understanding that the script would come in a little late,” says the experienced South Yorkshire playwright.
“I’d previously written A Christmas Carol as a solo show for myself and Royal Flush, a one-man play about Thomas Crapper [the South Yorkshire-born businessman, plumber and inventor of such water closet innovations as the floating ballcock and U-bend].”
Robinson directed The Snow Queen but this time he handed the reins to Gemma Fairlie, who shaped the winter play with her cast of Jacob Butler, Jessica Dennis, Sheri Lineham, Alicia Mckenzie and Loris Scarpa. “He chose Gemma after working with her before and seeing her other work, and if Paul says she’s good, then I trust him implicitly,” says Nick.
“I was given the option of contributing to rehearsals, but having directed as well as written plays, I think it’s fairer to hand it over.”
As with the rest of the audience, Lane was in for a surprise when seeing how designer Helen Coyston would create the beanstalk for a theatre in the round. “You’re thinking, ‘it can’t go in the middle of the stage, rising up into the lighting rig, blocking everyone’s view, but it’s sure to be a typically beautifully design by Helen’,” says Nick, who had only a “very brief chat” with her.
Coyston’s multi-layered stage design does incorporate a giant footprint, but as for the beanstalk…you must watch the show!
Jack And The Beanstalk runs at Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, until December 31. Box office: 01723 370541 or at sjt.uk.com. Tickets for the film cost £12 each or £15 for a group at sjt.uk.com/event/1294/sjt_at_home_jack.
Copyright of The Press, York
COMING UP FROM NICK LANE’S PEN IN 2022
- Sherlock Holmes And The Valley Of Fear, for Blackeyed Theatre, touring from September.
- A revival of The Goal at The Courtyard, Hereford, marking the 50th anniversary of Ronnie Radford’s famous FA Cup goal for Hereford United against Newcastle United in the February 5 mud at Edgar Street.
- Also for The Courtyard, Hereford: a play charting the history and changing landscape of a farming family from the 1950s onwards. “In 2018, when I wrote The Goal, I thought, ‘I know four things about Hereford: cider; home of the SAS; beef farming and that Ronnie Radford goal’,” he says.
- Next winter’s play in The Round at the SJT, Scarborough; title to be announced in early February.