Review: Community Players’ panto at Hasland Playhouse

By day they care for the health of the people of Derbyshire – but by night they’re the Community Players, providing laughter and entertainment to those same people, and fundraising for a number of good causes as they perform.

The Playhouse on Storforth Lane, Hasland, is the venue for their all-singing, all-dancing, all-fun production of Jack and the Beanstalk which opened last week and continues its run until February 1.

The Community Players' production of Jack and the Beanstalk

The Community Players' production of Jack and the Beanstalk

Written and directed by health visitor Imelda Cole, this Jack is set in Shirebrook, with occasional forays into Hasland, Mansfield, Queen’s Park and of course Bakewell Market to sell Daisy the cow. Bad Baron Wiggle-On (Stuart Rickards) is a foreigner from Welsh parts, and one of his henchmen is distinctly Scottish, but the rest of the cast are true-accented Derbyshire folk.

It is real old-fashioned panto, with plenty of ‘Hiya, kids’ and ‘Oh no it isn’t’. ‘Behind you!’ becomes a running joke every time Daisy the cow appears. Lots of classic gags and set pieces are there: a variation on the monster in the forest, a song sheet with lots of kids from the audience, even a lovely ultraviolet scene.

Dame Trott (Mark Johnson, who looks the part in big frocks and wigs and a pair of gold boots) and her son Silly Billy (Adrian Barker, with a permanent grin) are as daft as each other, so it is up to Jack the Giant Slayer (Steven Collis) to climb the magnificent beanstalk and save the farm, the village, Daisy and Lady Gwyneth (sweet-voiced Megan Rickards) from the evil Giant Blunderbore (fiendishly voiced by Harry Holloway) and his even eviller enforcer Creep (Angela Burns, with the finest cackling laugh this side of Derby.)

Of course Jack succeeds, in a glorious glitter-battle and tug of war, masterminded by the campest fairy in the village, Leek the Vegetable Fairy (Tom Oxley) – but not before they sing a whole lot of 1960s songs and customised classics like Daisy, Daisy, and Lovely Bunch of Coconuts.

Everyone joins in with gusto, and a jolly good time is had by cast and audience alike.

The Community Players are rapidly becoming a legend in Chesterfield, and on this showing they’ll remain so for years to come.

LYNNE PATRICK