|PANTO'S PEOPLE: Malcolm Stent with Rebecca Ross (left) as Jack Trot|
and Lorren Winwood as Tilly Trump
AFTER 30 different productions, local funnyman Malcolm Stent is about to put his pantomime career...behind him.
Yes, having performed at The Core (formerly Solihull Arts Complex, formerly the Library Theatre) in an unbroken run stretching back to the early nineties, the comedian has decided that this year's run of Jack and the Beanstalk will be his last.
On this evidence it's a fitting finale, taking all the ingredients which have made previous productions so popular and mixing in topical references to a certain Mr Trump and Prince Harry's upcoming wedding celebrations.
Perhaps given the fact that this is Stent's swansong, the show seems to place a more obvious dividing line between the story of magic beans and the song and stand-up interludes that the comedian has made his own.
Fortunately neither half suffers. The panto itself continues to punch well-above its weight, with a dizzying array of scene and costume changes. We have an actual Giant - rather than just a disembodied voice from the back of the theatre - and a slapstick scene involving Flossie the cow is milked for all its worth (pun completely intended).
Rebecca Ross makes for a gung-ho Jack, while Marcus Fernando - who has become the theatre's go-to bad guy - has real fun as Fleshcreep; even if several weeks of stage smoke has wreaked havoc with his vocal cords.
As for his repartee with the audience, Stent continues to make good-natured fun of his adopted hometown (he grew up, of course, in Saltley.) He claims that the people of Dorridge have discovered a rather curious way of pronouncing the name of the village to avoid it rhyming with a popular breakfast choice, and jokes that Knowle residents are so posh that they make trips to the bin with a briefcase.
In many ways, the festive show has done more to bind the different communities of Solihull together than any number of slightly muddled council initiatives. With this in mind, I think all of the borough will be rather sad to see the end of an era. Oh yes it will!
Jack and the Beanstalk runs until January 2.