Socialist panto retells fairytale with a Dagenham twist

PUBLISHED: 13:00 07 December 2016

Jack, Jill and the Beanstalk re-imagines the fairytale with a socialist twist at Dagenham Civic Centre

Jack, Jill and the Beanstalk re-imagines the fairytale with a socialist twist at Dagenham Civic Centre


Class, capitalism and war are the focus of an artist's reworking of a classic fairytale.

Jack, Jill and the Beanstalk comes to Dagenham Civic Centre this weekend, using life-sized police and public servant puppets to show a poor boy chase his dreams in a Job Centre atop a giant beanstalk.

The retelling comes from Chad McCail – Create’s artist-in-residence at The White House in Dagenham’s Green Lane – who also created the Becontree Estate mural at Valence House.

“A story about a giant that eats people is quite powerful,” the 55-year-old said. “When it was originally formulated it probably was about a rapacious landlord or cruel overlord. It’s also a story about a single mother and her son – we’ve taken that and modernised it.”

In Chad’s adaptation, Dagenham lad Jack sells his dad’s car for “magic beans of power”. After girlfriend Jill saves him from a bitter dispute with a Job Centre worker on top of the stalk, Jack finally secures employment with other down-and-outs in a venue called Giant’s Castle, where he’s expected to feed raw poor people to a greedy 10-foot overlord.

The grim set with its cardboard tower blocks and state-sponsored slogan “take your pills” becomes the backdrop of a working class uprising against Chad’s John Carpenter-style puppets, all extensions of higher powers that control the masses through medication.

The White House creative arts director Cristina Ford co-directed the play, casting Barking and Dagenham College students. She says the Rainham Road North production, in which Jack is told to forget his dreams of becoming a chef and join the Army, reflects reality in deprived London boroughs.

“There are quite a few true stories in the play – that Job Centre scene really happened,” the 33-year-old from Dagenham said.

Chad added: “They try and push Jack into the Army – that happens with a lot of working class kids who don’t excel at school.”

Tickets for Friday’s 7pm and Saturday’s 3pm and 7pm showings cost £3.12. Search for Jack, Jill and the Beanstalk on to purchase.

We’re giving away five pairs of tickets to Saturday’s matinee performance of Jack, Jill and the Beanstalk.

For your chance to win, send your name and contact number to by 5pm tomorrow (Thurs).

Winners will be contacted on Thursday evening and will be able to collect the tickets on the door ahead of 3pm show.

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