Jack And The Beanstalk Is Brilliant Fun At Wolverhampton Grand

What are the ingredients of the perfect panto? A handsome lead man and a beautiful leading lady? A fabulous dame with a series of eye popping costumes? A comedy sidekick who has all the best lines but doesn’t get the girl? A fairy who holds the show together with her magical narration? A baddie who makes the audience boo and hiss? And Doreen Tipton? If the answer to all the above is yes, then you are in for a total treat at the Wolverhampton Grand Theatre this Christmas, as Jack and the Beanstalk have reunited last year’s dream team of Lisa Riley, Ian Adams, Adam C Booth and Doreen Tipton, and have added Gareth Gates, Graham Cole and Sarah Vaughan to this cast and have created a dream of a panto. It is seriously good fun.

The traditional story of Jack and the Beanstalk is one of the best known (and in my opinion) the best of all pantos, with it’s beanstalk, giants and goose that lays the golden egg. It is also ripe for hilarity, with Daisy the Cow taking centre stage for so many of the jokes. And you will never see anything as funny as the scene stealing Doreen Tipton (Gill Jordan) attempting to milk the said cow along with Dame Trott (Ian Adams also on hilarious form). That said, this is a panto that is full of side splittingly funny scenes and songs, ones that leave you still having a little chuckle long after you have left the theatre.

The whole cast is gloriously funny, all with their tongues firmly in cheek in the best of panto traditions. Gareth Gates as Jack still sings like an angel and his performance of Unchained Melody had many in the audience fondly remembering his performances on Pop Idol, whilst he has good stage presence to play the handsome hero. He is well teamed with Sarah Vaughan as Jill, who shows that she can also handle slapstick in her hilarious love scene with Gareth that is interrupted by Simple Simon with manically chaotic results. Screen Veteran Graham Cole is a super baddie as Fleshcreep, totally hamming up his wickedness, you can see how much he is enjoying himself, which totally adds to the fun and mayhem. Lisa Riley is again brilliant in her role, holding everything together with her Mother Nature, and very funny flinging toilet rolls into the audience during the crazy version of ‘The 12 Days of Christmas.’

 

But once again it is the side characters who steal this panto. Ian Adams is a fantastic dame, he has all the rude lines and brings the house down with them, as well as showcasing some of the funniest costumes seen on the Grand stage. His knowing asides to the audience about the quality of the jokes are super funny and raise laughs throughout. Adam C Booth makes a welcome return to the Grand after his super funny performance as Wishy Washy last year, and, at this rate will become the Grand’s Matt Slack, he is such a crowd pleaser. His scene with the market store where he tells a story with all the products his brilliant, as is his poo, boo, moo rhyming scene. But once again it is Doreen Tipton who absolutely brings the house down with her hilarious lines and deadpan delivery. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything as funny as Doreen dancing, I didn’t think a dancer could be referred to as idle, but Doreen has this honour, and that is a total compliment.

The songs, the scenery, the direction is all admirable, making this another triumphant panto for the Grand.

Great Fun – Go see.

Wed 13 Dec – Sun 14 Jan

JACK AND THE BEANSTALK

Click here for ticket information

Five Minutes with the Fabulous Doreen Tipton

Doreen Tipton is a legend in her own lifetime. The first person in the United Kingdom to be diagnosed with ‘Lazy Cow Syndrome’, this awful disability hasn’t stopped Doreen from becoming an icon, first in her beloved Black Country, and now on the way to conquering the world. Ahead of this year’s Wolverhampton Grand pantomime, ‘Jack and the Beanstalk’, I had a chat with Doreen at the stunning Mount Hotel. Unfortunately, Doreen was feeling a little tired, probably as a result of lazy cow syndrome, and so she had a little rest in bed. Nevertheless, I spoke to Doreen (and her ultra-ego Gill Jordan) about this year”s panto, and life in general.

JACK AND THE BEANSTALK – PANTO – GRAND WVH
Wolverhampton Grand Theatre Jack and the Beanstalk Panto photo-call
Picture by Adam Fradgley

Fashion-Mommy: Last year you played the Lazy Empress in Aladdin, tell me about your character this year, is it true you’re playing yourself?

Doreen: Sort of. This year I’m playing Dame Trott’s lazy next door neighbour, who happens to be called Doreen.

FM: Do you get recognised out of character?

DT: I never get recognised out of character. When I’m Doreen people shout to me in the street, come over to me and often act as if we were life long friends, which is really lovely. I hardly ever do interviews as Gill. I think people want to believe that Doreen is real.

FM: What is the reaction to Doreen outside of the Midlands?

DT: I think it is more to do with humour than geography – you either get Doreen or you don’t. It’s about being on that particular wavelength, a little bit like Monty Python, lots of people don’t get it, but others love it. What I find interesting is that the audience spans right across the age groups, from young kids to 90 year olds.

JACK AND THE BEANSTALK – PANTO – GRAND WVH
Wolverhampton Grand Theatre Jack and the Beanstalk Panto photo-call
Picture by Adam Fradgley

FM: Why do you think you appeal to the young?

DT: I think personally the young find me funny for the same reason’s they find their parents or grandparents funny, they recognise the same sort of humour that they see in their own older relatives.

FM: Is Doreen based on anyone in particular?

DT: No, not any one person, but more a generalisation from lots of different people. But lots of people recognise Doreen as someone they know.

FM: You’ve returned to the Grand Theatre for this year’s panto – why was that?

DT: I had such a fantastic time last year, everything was perfect, the cast, the backstage staff,and the Grand is such a wonderful theatre. I just couldn’t resist!

FM: Is there any particular character in pantomime that you would love to play?

DT: (in a big, booming voice) Mirror, Mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all. I would love to play the Wicked Queen from Snow White, a vicious queen.

FM: How did you persuade Robert Plant to be in your movie?

DT: I know, I still pinch myself about that. I think the best answer is that I am a big fan of Robert, and Robert is a fan of Doreen’s. It was amazing!

Sat 9 Dec – Sun 14 Jan

JACK AND THE BEANSTALK

Wolverhampton Grand, click here for ticket information.

Brassed Off – Totally Brilliant

It’s the much loved film which tells the story of the Grimley Colliery Band as they fight to keep their pit open in 1994, whilst simultaneously trying to reach the Royal Albert Hall in the finals of National Brass Band Competition. And now Brassed Off is a total triumph for the Wolverhampton Grand Theatre as their first in house production in over 40 years proves to be a brilliantly funny and absorbing piece of theatre that doesn’t shy away from pulling punches. I absolutely loved it.

credit Graeme Braidwood

The beauty of Brassed Off is that it has a wryly funny, often hilarious Northern humour that contrasts so strongly against the stories of despair and desperation. It could be the most depressing hours of theatre, but due to the characters who are gritty and real, and the pithy one liners and asides, Brassed Off is actually life affirming and rather wonderful, you really cheer on this village and their quest to get to the Albert Hall, and you feel their pain as they face debt, illness, loan sharks and helplessness.

The cast is (band)uniformly excellent, with veteran Jeffrey Holland giving band leader Danny a real gravitas. The film role was played by the brilliant Pete Postlethwaite who left big shoes to fill, but Jeffrey more than rising to the challenge, filling Danny with pride and pathos, particularly in those poignant later scenes when he is confined to a hospital bed, and the stirring final scenes. He is matched by Christopher Connel as his tragic son Phil, a man who has totally reached rock bottom but still seems to be going further down, and Miriam Grace Edwards as wife Sandra, a women at the end of her tether as the loan sharks take everything she owns, down to a washing basket. Their scenes are super charged with tension and pain and they both perform brilliantly, if anyone thinks the worst of the miners plight ended in 1984/5 then the scene of Phil attempting suicide in his clown suit is a sombering reminder of what governments did to proud hardworking men.

credit Graeme Braidwood

credit Graeme Braidwood

But Brassed Off is funny to, with Tim Jones and Greg Yates giving the play its funny heart as veteran miners Harry and Jim. Harry’s feisty wife Rita (Donna Heaslip) might be manning a female only picket, but Harry is more concerned with having another ‘wet’ with his lifelong pal. This leads to lots of funny scenes where their banter and physical comedy just shines through. Susie Wilcox as Jim’s wife Vera is also good, a salt of the Earth character, kindly slipping money to struggling Sandra, but honestly asking questions of what life would be like if they took the redundancy money.

credit Graeme Braidwood

The central relationship between young miner Andy and Gloria, returning to the town she grew up in and rekindling a teenage romance, is sweetly handled by Eddy Masserella and Clara Darcy respectively, it feels real and raw rather than sugar coated. And mention must be given to Ash Matthews who plays 8 year old Shane perfectly, and acts as a narrator to bookend the action.

credit Graeme Braidwood

Brassed Off is a story of the human spirit, of communities sticking together in the face of enormous adversity. It tells its story with charm and humour, and with the stirring sounds of a wonderful Brass band belting out the Floral Dance and the William Tell Overture it is completely winning.

Brassed Off

Fri 25 Aug – Sat 2 Sep

Click here for ticket information