trot and doreen

Ian Adams as Dame Trot, a lazy cow . . . that's Doreen, not the cow, and the cow.

Jack and the Beanstalk

Wolverhampton Grand


Panto is all about fun, oh yes it is, and this year’s Grand offering has a giant helping of laughs and chuckles wrapped around the traditional tale of Jack, the giant, and the super size beanstalk.

A uniquely British institution, panto is also about being family friendly, after all it is the first theatre many a child will see, so get it right and they could be theatregoers for life, and this show gets it right from the start.

There is plenty for the kids, with a few lines way above their innocent heads to keep grown-ups on their toes, but with nothing to frighten the horses or offend a maiden aunt – in all, it’s a Christmas cracker of a panto.

We start with good against evil with Graham Cole, fondly remembered as The Bill’s PC Tony Stamp, transferring to the other side of the law to become a deliciously evil baddie in the role of Fleshcreep, the Giant Blunderbore’s representative on earth. It’s his 37th panto and all that experience shows in a glorious performance.

Good comes in the shape of Lisa Riley, a larger than life character, who sets the stage alight whenever she appears - even without the accompanying pyrotechnics.

She plays the fairy godmother, Mother Nature, and is so full of fun and bubbling enthusiasm it is infectious.

Then we have Dame Trot, played by Ian Adams who is another panto regular and in his 15th year as a dame. Experience counts in panto and it shows as Adams, spraying corny jokes around like currants in a bun, does a fine job of binding the plot together, with a different, colourful costume for every scene. A masterclass in Grand damery.


Lisa Riley, a glorious bundle of fun as Mother Earth

Then we have a comedy duo with two very different styles starting with Adam C Booth as Simple Simon who is best mates with the audience as soon as he bounds on stage. He is the panto’s cheeky chappie and the audience love him.

Risking her benefits by working, or at least appearing, we have Doreen Tipton as, well, as Doreen, the Black Country icon who battles daily against lazy cow syndrome. A mother who is devastated when she discovers her daughter has been kidnapped . . . after all it threatens her child income support.

Doreen has become a phenomenon, first on the internet and now mainstream, and is the creation of the much more glamorous and definitely harder working Cheslyn Hay actress Gill Jordan and Quarry Bank born writer and film-make David Tristram – who supplied additional material to Alan McHugh’s panto script.

Mother Earth, Doreen, Simon and Dame Trott combine for that old panto favourite, The 12 days of Christmas which sees Simon battered with pork scratchings by Doreen and the audience drenched by Simon’s water guns or bombarded by Mother Earth’s flying toilet rolls. Comedy gold.

Meanwhile at the serious end, serious being relative in panto, we have Gareth Gates, forever runner-up to Will Young in the BBC’s first Pop Idol back in 2002, who has carved out quite a name for himself in musical theatre. He gives us a nice and gentle Jack, perhaps a bit too nice and gentle though for the rough and tumble of panto.

doreen and cole

Graham Cole as the leather clad baddy Fleshcreep conning Doreen he is from MFI . . . or as that MI5 . . .

His battling of giants, to be honest, was less then convincing, but the lad can sing, that’s how he started after all, and had a couple of lovely duets with Sarah Vaughan as Doreen’s daughter Jill.

The first, Bryan Adams’ hit Everything I Do, sung to Jill as the pair sat on a wall, was going so well . . . until Simon joined in and mayhem ensued.

The second, Unchained Melody, displayed an oh so simple but beautifully executed clever lighting design (Nick Richings) to first reveal Jill behind a scrim as a vision, then fading her out. Simple but very effective.

We also had the lovely voice of Julie Paton as the Golden Harp with a quite beautiful version of Fields of Gold, with a mention too for the excellent five piece band under musical director Kelvin Towse.

It’s a show filled with plenty of local references and comments, has enough pace to take even the youngest children along with it and with a stage filling giant, singing animals, and everyone, except the giant of course, living happily ever after, what is not to like. It’s a fun packed panto, oh yes it is, directed by David Janson, and it runs to 14-01-18.

Roger Clarke


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