Nikhil Singh Rai stars in Stratford East’s pantomime, Jack And The Beanstalk with book and lyrics by Succession/Killing Eve writer Anna Jordan (she/her), music and lyrics by Stratford East pantomime veteran Robert Hyman (he/him) and directed by Stratford East’s Sky Arts Associate Artist for 2023 Denzel Westley-Sanderson (he/him).
The cast includes Nathan Kiley (he/him) as the dame, Milky Linda, Lucy Frederick (she/her) as Flesh Creep, Max Gill (they/he/she) as Bill, Savanna Jeffrey (she/her) as Winnie the Moo, Eli London (they/them) as Ensemble, Billy Lynch (he/they) as Junior, Nikhil Singh Rai (he/him) as Jack and Jamie Tait (he/him) as Ensemble.
Jack And The Beanstalk runs at Stratford East Saturday 18 November 2023 – Saturday 06 January 2024.
You’re starring in Jack and the Beanstalk at Stratford East, what can you tell us about this production of the beloved pantomime?
Our production is set in the fictional town of Splatford, where the residents are protesting against the Giant Belch stealing their main export: Splatfordian mud.
The story follows Jack as he and his cow best friend, Winnie the Moo, try to support his wacky, entrepreneurial mother. Of course, a series of unfortunate events leads him to decide he must take on the Giant himself.
I think Anna [Jordan] has done a brilliant job of creating a story that is new and fresh whilst also being true to the original tale. We never take for granted the fact that many children may never have heard the story of Jack and the Beanstalk, so amidst all the fun, the story is still true to its core!
What was it about Anna Jordan’s script that made you keen to be part of this production?
I remember when I first read it on the tube, I genuinely laughed out loud to myself. I think it has a strong message, but you never feel like you’re being preached to. I feel like she’s created a real world, with characters who have real dreams, who are striving towards something. I connected with Jack straight away and felt he was someone I could understand.
You’re playing Jack, what do you love most about this character?
Jack has an innocence that I admire a lot because he looks for the good where many would see bad. And yes, though he does get himself in some sticky situations thanks to some silly ideas or believing the wrong people, it’s his belief in other people’s goodness that allows him to triumph at the end of the day.
And what do you think will be the biggest challenge?
Not corpsing when one of my co-actors ad libs a hilarious one liner. (They seriously are, very funny people.)
How are you and the cast preparing for a demanding panto season?
We’re a small cast, so all we can do is look out for each other, take care of our mental and physical health and of course pace ourselves for the marathon ahead.
What would you say to anyone thinking of booking to see Jack and the Beanstalk?
We’re an eclectic bunch who’ve formed a great team making this show. Each of us has contributed to it in our own way. I think that’s what makes Stratford East stand out from the crowd – it’s a show with something for everyone. In fact, Rob [Hyman]’s original music includes so many genres, from ska to disco to bhangra. It is full of bops that make your ears prick up. And because they’ve been written with the show in mind, they actually drive the story forward!
If it’s your first time in the theatre – you are welcome! Know that in panto, audience interaction is encouraged, so have fun. If it’s not your first time — welcome back!