Tossed out of their humble home above a pub when it was bulldozed, the good folk behind the Above the Stag theatre company have cashed in their magic beans for new digs under the Vauxhall arches. Director Peter Bull talks to the Weekender about tongue-in-cheek pantos and just how big Jack’s beanstalk is.
Above the Stag quickly built up a cult following when they started in Victoria three and a half years ago and have gained a reputation for their risqué adult pantomimes; in previous years they’ve had Sleeping Beauty -one little prick, Robin Hood –Queen of Thieves and Dick Whittington –Another Dick in City Hall. Next year’s is already confirmed as Treasure Island: the Curse of the Pearl Necklace! “It’s so purile and dreadful the audience love it!” Peter laughs. “It’s filthy fun without being filthy; you can’t be too crude, you’ve got to be clever so there’s plenty of political jokes and triple entendres.”
This year’s Jack off the Beanstalk, set in modern-day Yorkshire, tells the story of impoverished dairy farmers Jack Trott and his mum who are forced to sell their beloved cow Kylie for a handful of magic beans. The plot thickens when evil landlord Fleshcreep tries to evict them so he can stage a festival on their farm. The question remains: can they save the day before Fleshcreep gets his hands on Jack’s beans?
A former trolley dolly for Ansett airlines in Australia, performer Peter moved to London 20 years ago and has seen “the good, the bad and the ugly” of the city’s fringe theatre. The key to running fringe theatre is keeping people guessing, he tells.
“You have to do plays that appeal to everyone. You can’t just constantly do niche gay comedies because you’ll run out of them. Then again you can’t always deal with heavy dramas because come January people just want to laugh,” Peter says. Following the Christmas panto season, Above the Stag is serving up a satire called the Gay Naked Play, which sees New York’s most successful gay theatre team come to the rescue of an ailing classical theatre company and try to turn their fortunes around by staging a trashy, homoerotic version of Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ. Sounds like there might be a happy ending this time round!
“We’re really excited to move into Vauxhall; it’s a big catchment area,” Peter says. “We’re not competing with the RVT, they do cabaret and drag performance art, which is different from us; to compete with them would be a disaster. There’s lots of gay clubs and bars but we’re bringing something new to the area and we’re for the general community.”
Jack Off the Beanstalk is at the Above the Stag theatre, Arch 17, Miles St, SW8 1RZ, from November 29-January 5. Admission: £12-£22. http://www.abovethestag.com