JAC (who is resilient) AND THE BEANSPROUTS

Lake Wanaka Centre, Wanaka

19/12/2018 - 22/12/2018

Production Details

Writer Liz Breslin
Director Gilly Pugh

The Wanaka Pantomimers

Oh yes they are! The Wanaka Pantomimers are at it again with their annual Christmas community pantomime being rehearsed in the run-up to their shows on 19-22nd December at the Lake Wanaka Centre.

Some people think of pantomime in the classical sense of the word – serious, mimed movements telling a silent story. ‘Panto’ couldn’t be further different from this – a theatre tradition that started in the 1600s and has built into a riot of comedy, costuming and twists on fairy stories.

According to Theatreview, last year’s show, ‘Cindy and the Villanelles,’ ticked “all the panto boxes: over-the-top costumes, singing and dancing, cross-dressing dames, audience interaction, local themes and endless jokes of mixed quality… with gales and groans of laughter.”

This year’s panto is titled ‘Jac (who is resilient) and the Beansprouts’ and is planned to be more of the same, but different. Writer Liz Breslin had fun playing with the story. “Fairy tales are plain weird when you think about them,” says Liz. “There’s all this stuff in them we’d never actually want our children to do. Accept magic beans from a stranger? What’s up with that?!”

Director Gilly Pugh is gearing up for another family-friendly show. Panto is traditionally rehearsed fast and furious in the three weeks running up to the show and she didn’t have time to comment other than to say “#nosleeptilpanto.” She’ll also neither confirm nor deny whether last year’s beloved panto horse, Trojan, will get another outing. But one thing’s for certain. Everyone’s going to have a good time. Oh yes they will! Oh yes they will!

Lake Wanaka Centre
19-22 December 2018
7pm with a matinee at 2pm on the 22nd
Booking details: Eventfinda


Jac:  Jennie Salter
Mum:  Gabriel Schwarz
Magic Fairy:  Becky Plunkett
The Director:  Jay Simon
Smulkin:  Joel Herbert
Coach:  Stefan Schwarz
Health:  Casey Scurr
Safety:  Max Hall
Golden Goose:  Lauren Rimmer
Magic Music Box:  Evie Simonsohn
The Interns:  Siena Shotwell, Maia Mueller
Jill:  Jim and Liz Rimmer

Production:  Richard Elvey
Stage Manager:  John Schwarz
Tech:  Natalia Schwarz, Bene Schwarz
Beanstalk:  Dave Pickard, Tamika Ashbrook, Stefan Schwarz, Bill Brooker
Costume & props:  Sarah Millwater, Rosemary Wolfin, Susanne McCutcheon, Susan Allison, Jane Rimmer 
Make up:  Sarah Millwater, Maisy MIllwater, Rosemary Wolfin 
Giant Deck:  Dave Millwater 
Backdrops:  Hayley Flintof, Kyah Rae Windle, Jodie Langston, Ellie Rose Church, Dave Jacobsen, Issac Henry 
Photography:  Andrew Miller

Traditional Chinese Opera , Family , Theatre ,

Hits the mark

Review by Sue Wards 22nd Dec 2018

The licence for subversion offered by pantomime has been taken on enthusiastically by playwright Liz Breslin.

Breslin’s Christmas pantomime offering in Wanaka last year, Cindy and the Villanelles, challenged the heteronormative narrative of fairy tales and one audience member was so incensed he made violent online threats to Breslin. That hasn’t deterred her, or Gillian Pugh who directs again this year with flair.  

With Jac (who is resilient) and the Beansprouts Breslin continues to play with gender and sexuality, including the traditional cross-dressing dames and something new: a main protagonist, Jac, who isn’t identified as male or female and is given no personal pronouns throughout the show (“Oh yes Jac can” “Oh no Jac can’t”). 

Wanaka is a smallish place yet fortunate to have a largish pool of talent, including three professional actors who offer their services to ‘Jac’: Jay Simon, malevolent and mouthy as the director in fish-net stockings and black leather shorts (think Edna Mode crossed with Cruella de Vil); Becky Plunkett, the gorgeously ditzy magic fairy (her scene with the tiny pink telephone is a stand-out); and Joel Herbert, the frenetic giant Smulkin (no props required to create his larger-than-life presence).

These three performers lift the energy of the show whenever they are onstage, aided by the consistently believable and likeable Jac (Jennie Salter) and the very appealing Gabriel Schwarz (one of four Schwarzs onstage) as Jac’s mother (no one knows her name, Jac notes).

The cast includes adorable primary-school-aged Beansprouts, roller blading teens and a Chorus with lovely four part harmony, as well as a Health & Safety duo monitoring the show, and an amazing growing beanstalk (“I hope it’s not genetically modified”) which rightly earns its own applause.

Breslin’s cultural and local references hit the mark: Jac’s resilience is due to being bombarded with certificates for thinking, trying, and even getting home safely; Jac’s mother wears Moms Toyle activewear; Hawea hippies sell biodynamic, gluten-free eggs; Jill the cow is “the reason we’ve got global warming”; Hollywood is “pretty short of old white men for some reason at the moment”; the Giant drinks bone broth, his golden goose does the floss; and the beanstalk leads to Queenstown, where the Giant’s lifestyle is about being bigger and better – “big house, big deck” (oo-er).

It’s hilarious much of the time and pretty crazy at others, “parochial and casually racist” – well, briefly, and Jac’s line “This is really weird” earns a resounding “Oh yes it is!” from the audience.

A Stars Wars light sabre battle keeps it “down with the kids” and introduces a plot twist unheard of in the original fable. But there is a happy ending (of course, it’s pantomime), bringing order to the Queenstown Lakes District Council (which also governs Wanaka); the possibility of new wellness retreats; and even speaking parts for aspiring young cast members.

The Christmas pantomime is a recent phenomenon in Wanaka and the Friday night audience is fairly quiet in the first half, but embraces the sheer craziness of the genre in the second.

Just this month UK actor and producer Alan Mehdizadeh defended the importance of pantomime after entertainer Robbie Williams told Sky News he was “proud to have an entertainment career this long” without “having to do panto”.

“The theatre is a place of magic, of learning, of imagination and of escape,” Mehdizadeh said, pointing out it’s also often the first time kids experience the magic of theatre. “Sometimes, the bigger the fairytale and the more unrealistic the surroundings, the more realistic it can be, and the more immersive the experience can be made.”

Breslin’s script and Pugh’s direction are on track to creating that experience this year, with the support of a small but enthusiastic sector of the community. 


Make a comment

Wellingon City Council
Aotearoa Gaming Trust
Creative NZ
Auckland City Council