Jack’s the perfect start to Borders pantomime season

Heriot Christmas Panto, Jack and the Beanstalk.
Heriot Christmas Panto, Jack and the Beanstalk.
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Heriot Players are this weekend opening the region’s panto season in style in a giant production at the MacFie Hall.

If Monday night’s dress rehearsal is anything to go by, it’s a laugh-a-minute performance from a talented bunch of amateur players that embraces everything good about panto – audience participation, unbridled breaking into song for no reason whatsoever, countless chances to boo and sing along, and, of course, a smattering of cross dressing.

Heriot Christmas Panto, Jack and the Beanstalk. Boris and Jack fight.

Heriot Christmas Panto, Jack and the Beanstalk. Boris and Jack fight.

There’s plenty to keep kids and adults alike happy and the cast pull out all the stops to ensure this is the case.

The baddies are up first – with Dougie Crabbe’s Hagrid lookalike Giant Blunderbore amd Billy Hyslop’s Baron Boris stay just about on the right side of scary ... and they have the best song in We Could Have Been Anything from Bugsy Malone. They were, indeed, the best at being bad. But with every baddie comes a host of goodies, each adding their own special brand of spice to the mix, from the Strictly-obsessed Fairy Middleton (Helen Brown) to the completely brilliant West Country drawl of Kate Finlayson’s Princess Eugenie and the calm majesty of her dad King Everard, played by Aileen Collings.

No panto is complete without two actors taking the part of a bovine quadruped ... and Gertie became a character in her own right. Being the producer meant Fran Benner claimed the front end by dint of superiority, but she was well backed up by Lindsay Easter.

The central Trot family were a hoot, although the eponymous Jack, played enthusiastically by Alison Hyslop, comes along rather late in the show, but makes up for it with wonderfully thigh-slapping bravado.

Heriot Christmas Panto, Jack and the Beanstalk. Jack and the Giant fight.

Heriot Christmas Panto, Jack and the Beanstalk. Jack and the Giant fight.

Kåre Hanson really works the hall with his portrayal of Jack’s well-meaning brother Billy ... just look out for the ice-cream skit.

And bringing everything together is the Dame Trot herself, Gavin Potter brilliantly holding everything together with the odd adlib and fantastic comic timing. There is a warning for any gentleman sitting near the front, however, you may be on a promise.

Each musical number is well backed up by the chorus – Christine Baxter, Kerrie Bennet and Hannah Orton.

The script was apparently written by a certain Brad Fitt ... and it’s certainly punsome.

Heriot Christmas Panto, Jack and the Beanstalk. Princess Eugene and her father the King.

Heriot Christmas Panto, Jack and the Beanstalk. Princess Eugene and her father the King.

And with Felix Otton on the ol’ joanna and Colin Mackie taking charge of the lights, you are sure of a grand night out.

Performances are on Friday (sold out already) and Saturday (a few tickets remain – check at the Stow Post Office or call Fran Bennet on 01875 835243.

Heriot Christmas Panto, Jack and the Beanstalk. Jack played by Alison Hyslop climbs the beanstalk.

Heriot Christmas Panto, Jack and the Beanstalk. Jack played by Alison Hyslop climbs the beanstalk.

Heriot Christmas Panto, Jack and the Beanstalk. The chorus interacts with the crowd with a sing song.

Heriot Christmas Panto, Jack and the Beanstalk. The chorus interacts with the crowd with a sing song.

Heriot Christmas Panto, Jack and the Beanstalk. Billy Trot uses his head.

Heriot Christmas Panto, Jack and the Beanstalk. Billy Trot uses his head.

Heriot Christmas Panto, Jack and the Beanstalk. Dame Trot played by Gavin Potter and the King played by Aileen Collings sing together.

Heriot Christmas Panto, Jack and the Beanstalk. Dame Trot played by Gavin Potter and the King played by Aileen Collings sing together.

Heriot Christmas Panto, Jack and the Beanstalk. Fairy Middleton sells Jack some magic beans.

Heriot Christmas Panto, Jack and the Beanstalk. Fairy Middleton sells Jack some magic beans.