Q&A with writer Sam Caseley and director Tom Saunders on Jack, Mum & The Beanstalk

Hull Truck Theatre are excited to welcome families, schools and young audiences to continue celebrating their 50th Anniversary year, as they present Jack, Mum & The Beanstalk from Wednesday 7 to Saturday 24 December.

Tom Saunders directing Jack, Mum & The Beanstalk

Jack, Mum & The Beanstalk is a new piece of work by Sam Caseley and a festive spectacle designed for children aged 3+ and their families. Jack can’t wait to spend Christmas with his super-fun, Lego-building, song-singing, chocolate-sharing, Superhero Mum. But then they get a call – Nan is joining them for Christmas. Suddenly everything becomes about tidying bedrooms, clearing up toys and having no fun at all.

When Jack discovers a beanstalk has sprouted in his living room and is stretching up to the sky, he’s ready to escape. Join Jack for a magical journey into the sky, filled with big laughs, hidden treasures and giant friendships.

In this Q&A with both the writer and the director of the show to find out what makes it a “must-see” this Christmas. Writer Sam Caseley is Co-Artistic Director of The Herd, whose work includes The Christmas Ugly Duckling and How To Fly Like A Reindeer. Director Tom Saunders leads Hull Truck Theatre’s Creative Learning programme in addition to the theatre’s community engagement and artist development initiatives. Earlier this year he directed the community production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Why should audiences and especially young children be excited about seeing Jack, Mum & The Beanstalk? 

Sam: I’ve focused on the relationship between Jack and his Mum so I’m hoping audiences see a bit of themselves in it – the fun (and the difficulties) of family relationships at Christmas. We’ve packed the show full of fun – there’s games, Christmas music, dancing, puppets, fairy lights and much more! Kids and adults alike are in for a treat.

Tom: I think young audiences are going to really like Jack. He’s a main character with chaotic energy who really pushes boundaries and does things in a way that I don’t think they would get away with themselves.

Levi Payne in Jack, Mum & The Beanstalk

What makes this version of the Jack & The Beanstalk story, which we all know and love, different from any other version?

Tom: I think there are two main differences. Firstly, Jack & The Beanstalk is normally performed as a pantomime and ours isn’t a panto stylistically. Ours is a Christmas play which starts out as if it is a naturalistic play and then becomes magical when the beanstalk grows. Secondly, this is a modern play set in 2022 with Jack being a typical 2022 child and Hannah, his Mum, being a typical modern parent.

Sam: We’ve still got all the best bits of the fairy tale – a young, plucky hero and a wild giant but we’ve brought the story forward. Jack and his Mum are excited for Christmas but then they get some news that changes everything. Jack’s Mum takes a more prominent role than in the usual story, and we’ve managed to sneak in Spider-Man references, a Strokes song and an amazing chicken puppet.

Q. Why do you think children should experience the magic of theatre from a young age and why is it important?

Tom: I think that theatre asks audiences to use their imagination more than film or TV, which can be really satisfying. Film and TV would normally use CGI to depict a giant, but our use of puppetry and brilliant performers means that the audience is joining in with their imaginations to complete the story and bring it to life.

Sam: There’s nothing like sitting with your friends and family and watching a story come to life in front of you. Laughing together, whispering together, being scared together, and then coming out afterwards and chatting about what you’ve seen. It’s all about that shared joy!

From the point of view of a director, and for anyone currently writing their own play, what is your top tip to making characters interesting for young children? 

Tom: I don’t think young children are different to any other audiences. They want to be entertained and – rather brilliantly – make their opinions known loudly during the play. If they’re loving it, they let us know and if they’re bored, they do the same.

What writer or director has inspired you in your work?

Sam: Sarah McDonald-Hughes wrote a show called How To Be a Kid, which is an amazing exploration of all the messiness of being a kid. Dance Nation by Clare Barron is a show for adults, but about kids in dance competitions and I think about that show all the time. I’m massively inspired by films and books too – I love the books of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Jon Klassen’s picture books, anything by Aardman, Pixar. I could go on.

Tom: I think most directors are inspired by all the theatre they see. You steal and borrow and use other people’s ideas all the time. I’ve been lucky enough to see lots of brilliant theatre and it has all contributed to how I approach directing. 

For anyone currently writing their own play, what is your top tip to getting started? 

Sam: Watch, read and listen to as many different kinds of storytelling as possible. Be an explorer.

What is your favourite memory of a Christmas present from your own childhood?

Tom: I remember one Christmas I received a white Power Rangers Zord! (Sort of a big white dragon robot thing). It was really exciting to have a big toy related to my favourite thing in the world at that time – Power Rangers! My mum often tells a story of me and my twin brother sprinting into her room one morning saying “Mum! We’ve just seen the best thing ever!” We had just seen the first episode of Power Rangers and it was central to my identity for the next few years. 

Sam: My stocking – waking up at 5am, seeing that it was full of stuff, trying to get back to sleep and obviously failing. The excitement was unreal.

Jack, Mum & The Beanstalk

Wednesday 7 – Saturday 24 December

Tickets: £12 / Conc. £2 OFF

Access Performances

BSL Interpreted Performance – Saturday 17 Dec, 3pm

All performances are relaxed.

Recommended age 3+

Booking information

Hull Truck Theatre, 50 Ferensway, Hull, East Riding of Yorkshire, HU2 8LB

01482 323638