Based in Wimbledon the delightful Polka Theatre has been making theatre for children aged 0-13 since 1979. Its latest production, Jack v Giant, running to 26th March has been written by Polka’s Artistic Director and CEO, Peter Glanville, and Barb Jungr.
Directed by Roman Stefanski, Jack v Giant is a clever, dual-layered musical. One layer connects with children in terms they understand while the other offers adults capitalism and the unequal distribution of wealth in our society to think about, if they want to. Though the production uses as its foundation the fairy tale of Jack and the Giant Beanstalk this stage baddie, the Big Man, who has taken all the gold the village has mined leaving them with nothing, amusingly channels Donald Trump in numerous ways.
There’s a cast of two. Jack is a girl played by Hannah Akhalu. Her father, and presumably, also the Big Man is played by Henry Regan. There’s also a charming cow affectingly summoned in a video by Julian Butler. This cow almost steals the show at various points.
The theatre’s age guide for the show is 4-8. Younger audiences may struggle with some of the concepts and the first part of the show deals with sad circumstances such as not having enough to eat, parents despair at losing their job, a child having to contemplate losing one’s beloved pet (the cow) because there’s not enough money. There is palpable empathetic engagement from children in the audience in the recommended age group with these problems which is moving.
Things cheer up significantly when the magic beans are rather splendidly produced from the very effective set designed by Laura McEwan. Jack is from then on a winning streak, claiming what is right for herself, her father and the village. The sometimes use of puppetry by Keith Frederick imaginatively brings a greater scale to the set.
The musical runs for an enjoyable, pacey one hour, exactly the right amount of time for the show, the children and their parents.
The lovely Polka Theatre space offers an outing much more than a show for those who have not already visited. There’s a garden and an outdoor playground in which the children enjoy letting off steam after a show, as well as a delightful cafe. Also, a large ‘toy zone’ as the theatre calls it, here there are places for adults to sit while their children play with toys and books. Finally, there’s a little shop that even sells pocket money toys.
Review by Marian Kennedy
Get ready for a GIANT new adventure…
Follow the story of Jack, her father (and the family cow, Dotty) in a re-imagined version of the classic fairytale.
When all of the gold in town disappears and her father loses his job in the mines, Jack is forced to sell Dotty and unknowingly embarks on an exciting adventure that takes her to new heights: from underground mines, climbing the beanstalk, to a golden castle in the sky. Who has stolen all the gold and can Jack save the day?
From the writing team behind We’re Going on a Bear Hunt and How to Hide a Lion, Jack v Giant is an exciting new musical enchantingly brought to life through striking set design, beautiful puppetry and new music.
Sat 11 Feb – Sun 26 Mar
Duration: Approximately 50 minutes