From August to December 2016 artist Chad McCail lived at The White House and worked with a diverse group of people from the local community to write, design, build and stage a pantomime at the Civic Centre. Jack, Jill and the Beanstalk was a humorous, irreverent socialist pantomime co-written with local director Christina Ford. Chad ran daily workshops at The White House to create the puppets and set for the piece, working with Christina and the group to develop and update the story, which touched on a number of social and economic issues affecting the borough. Jack sells his dad’s old car to help his single mum who is in arrears, climbing the beanstalk with his girlfriend Jill, only to find a job centre, drunk and disenfranchised soldiers and a malevolent giant at the top. Jack, Jill and the puppets have to work together to rescue the people’s courage from the giant and change the world back down the beanstalk.
Technical theatre students from Barking and Dagenham College assisted local residents to make the puppets while the college’s Performing Arts students operated them and starred in the performance at the Civic Centre to an audience of 200 people over 4 performances. Music for the performance was provided by The Pad.
Chad McCail’s residency introduced and galvanized a large number of new people to the house, as well as becoming involved in thinking about, making and acting in his piece. His pantomime was challenging, disquieting and humorous and really encapsulated the spirit of the community throughout. It formed a new and exciting approach to participatory practice, where working with people is a natural part of an artist’s practice, making friends with people in the community not simply having them participate. It also borrowed from old local traditions of the town show, as well as carnivalesque ways of bringing people together around an idea.
Chad’s residency lead to the formation of All Hands On Deck – a group made up of local residents who took part in creating the pantomime. All Hands On Deck enjoyed working together so much that they decided to keep meeting to create more set and prop design and support future residencies at The White House.