Jackie and the Beanstalk
- Mark Fisher
- 7 December 2011
Johnny McKnight's panto manages to entertain while challenging traditional gender roles
According to panto dame Dott Von Trott, things have got so bad in the austerity-stricken pantosphere that ‘parents in Bridge of Allan have started firing their nannies and learning their own kids’ names’.
Serious times indeed, and there’s something about Johnny McKnight’s abrasive-yet-charming persona that suits our belt-tightening era. His dame is a cash-strapped underdog, a waspish voice-of-the-people, a sharp-tongued fighter adept at triumphing in the face of adversity. She has a Lily Savage swagger and a quick-lipped way with words. She is hilarious and, when she goes on walkabout in the auditorium, also a little scary.
Despite also writing and directing, McKnight gives full rein to the ensemble, youth-theatre chorus and all. This is a female-centred twist on the classic tale in which Helen McAlpine’s Jackie is determined to break free of sexual stereotyping and slay the giant herself. In the end, she needs her sister and a good fairy to help her, even though Jonathan Holt as the Tim Burton-inspired baddie turns out to be all bluster, but it’s great to see the sisters doing it for themselves.
MacRobert Arts Centre, Stirling, until Sat 7 Jan.