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Review: Fee fi fo fum, Jack and the Beanstalk is a captivating triumph

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Jack and the Beanstalk, Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds, until Tuesday

The stage is littered with dustsheets covering unseen objects and light filters through a grimy window when Lyngo Theatre's Patrick Lynch steps into view.

Silently he looks under each creased sheet, knocking over a makeshift walking stick and causing clouds of dust to puff into the air.

And so begins this captivating and atmospheric retelling of classic fairytale Jack and the Beanstalk.

Jack and the Beanstalk Copyright Alex Brenner (55004304)
Jack and the Beanstalk Copyright Alex Brenner (55004304)

The scene is the neglected attic of Jack's house, which is home to a series of abandoned items from the famous story: the makeshift stick is carved with the letters 'TOM' – not spelling Tom as you might think but standing for 'The Old Man' Jack later agrees to sell his cow to in return for magic beans; or there's the giant – literally – boot which belongs to... the giant.

Among the abandoned items are also the written version of the tale – from which Patrick occasionally reads, when not physically acting out the story and all its characters – a cow bell (for the cow with an interesting name) and an immense cauldron which Jack later seeks refuge from the giant in.

Patrick is a master at setting the scene and creating a tangible feeling of suspense.

We hear all about the house, the financial problems of Jack and his mum and we witness the electricity being cut off when they are unable to pay the bills.

As the story gathers pace we see Jack's light-as-air 'ice cream' float in the air and can imagine the imposing beanstalk's growth through Patrick's vivid description.

Then we are immersed in the drama as Jack ventures up the beanstalk, first fleeing the giant to catch coins as they flutter down, then stealing away with the golden egg and, on his final visit, escaping with the magic harp (which he later takes on a lucrative world tour) and felling the beanstalk as the hungry giant attempts to catch the boy.

But while this one-man production has plenty to interest adults, the real joy of family theatre lies in the reactions of those the show is intended for.

Our five-year-old daughter, while initially fearful she might see the giant, soon relaxed into the show. She squealed with outraged delight when water was sprayed on to those of us in the first few rows; then when asked for name suggestions (for the cow with the interesting name) she shrieked an unimaginative 'Cow' as her contribution to the debate; and when Patrick asked the boy in the front row his name she piped up with a confident 'Clara', despite the fact we were seated in the third row.

At the end of the performance, Patrick was met with enthusiastic applause from the small Theatre Royal audience.

"It's always a pleasure to perform at this lovely theatre," he said as the clapping subsided. "If you enjoyed it, please tell your friends."

Well we definitely enjoyed it and urge anyone with children aged over three to get to the Theatre Royal for the remaining performances this half-term.

Tickets are available tomorrow (Monday) and Tuesday at 11am and 2pm. The show lasts about 55 minutes.

To book, go to www.theatreroyal.org