2017: Jack and the Beanstalk
Our second version of Jack and the Beanstalk brought the story closer to the original, and finally featured both part of a giant and the pantomime cow on-stage! The sets are (even) better than usual, and for the first time the stage has proscenium curtains which completely changed the feel of the stage. The cast were amazing, battling all sorts of problems to bring the show to life. Special mention must be made of the Dame, who was a former student who came back to play the part, and Jack, who fought off illness to appear.
Sadly, this was to be my last panto while employed at LAL: but it’s nice to go out in style!
Build me up Buttercup: making the cow
Ah, the cow: buying a pantomime cow that didn’t look like a genetically-mutated horse proved impossible. Hiring a cow proved unaffordable. So it was off to Trago for materials. And to make possibly my favourite prop ever: it seemed to appear as if by magic as I tried random things out and they just worked.
I have no idea how you are supposed to make a pantomime cow: probably not this way. But I made mine out of a plastic flagon, bucket, coathangers, camping mat, horned helmet, polystyrene balls, felt and lots of fur fabric. Look carefully at the finale in the video and you will see that the eyelids really do move…
The head is naturally unbalanced because of the muzzle, unfortunately. Even with a foam ring padding the top of the bucket, it tends to slip forward. To stop it tipping off the actor’s head, I added a ‘yoke’ made of coat hanger wire passed through a piece of hosepipe. The wire was curved round the back of the actor’s neck, down onto the breastbone and then bent upwards to support the front of the bucket.
The body is simply a large piece of fur fabric which has been glued to foam camping mats: they provide just enough stiffness to force the body to bulge outwards rather than hanging limply, but don’t add significant weight. I confess that I joined two pieces of fabric along the spine, so the nap of the fur would lie the right way on both sides. Velcro secured the body underneath. I didn’t have time to finish the back properly: it needed padding and shaping, but we did remember the tail at the last minute!
The head and body are separate: there is a fur fabric neck that joins the head to the neckerchief, which is intended to disguise the join.
The trousers are simple pantaloons made of more fur fabric. The udder is crudely made with pink fabric, stuffed and sewn to the body.