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2019: Bolton Victoria Hall

Joe Purdy productions have been plagued with problems over the last few years and the 2019/20 season was no exception. When Joe Purdy Productions lost their tender bid to host the 2019/20 panto Aladdin at the Bolton Albert Halls they decided they would not be beaten and instead moved their production and the new title of Cinderella to Bolton's Victoria Hall. With the bold claim this would be 'Bolton's biggest ever pantomime' hopes and expectations were high. As the casting was announced many of the cast announcements fell flat with the possible exception of panto veteran Anne Nolan who was to lead the cast as the Fairy Godmother, although quirkily renamed Fairy Grandmother for this particular production. The other 'big' names were reality star David Potts (Ibiza Weekender), Davina De Campo (Ru Paul's Drag Race) and Antonella (a little known YouTube reviewer).

The opening night performance went ahead as planned on Friday 29th November but the performance was far from perfect with technical issues resulting in disappointed audiences members leaving early and then leading to performances scheduled to take place over the next two days to be immediately cancelled early the following day. An initial statement  (right) was issued by Joe Purdy Productions stating that due to illness in the cast they had been forced to cancel some performances whilst they auditioned for a replacement. Cast members being taken sick and being unable to perform is nothing new but any professional production company has contingency plans in place with well rehearsed understudies / swings ready to step in at a moments notice. To pull productions for this reason shows a total lack of professionalism and respect for audiences. In contrast to this situation, when a Qdos pantomime found it's star turn, Lee Ryan, was pulling out of his panto contract mid performnance in 2018 they managed to have him replaced and the show back up and running within a 20 minute interval.  So this raises the question at what point does a company cease to be an amateur one and start calling themselves professional? getting the basics in place is a good start and sadly in this case this basic step was not taken which speaks volumes. This is not a professional production company although it is parading as one.

On the Saturday following the opening night performance actor Nick Newbould, who has over 15 years panto experience behind him, who had been cast as Buttons and hired as the Director of the performance revealed the truth surrounding the sudden cancellation of the weeks performances and the secret chaos that the production company did not want to be made public. Far from being 'very ill' as the statement suggested he was in good spirits and confirmed he had left the production as he felt he needed to distance himself from the show and the production company. Nick gave a full, honest and  exclusive interview to showbiz reporter Alex Belfield confirming that the show was in chaos with scenery not ready, props not provided, technicians not being competent and not familiar with the production, not enough microphones for the actors, poor dressing rooms facilities, a lack of chaperones and front of house stewards, costumes having to be provided by the actors themselves or sourced from local amateurs dramatic companies, this catalogue of catastrophes led to Nick walking away from the production. Showbiz journalist Alex Belfield has gone on to state his feelings towards Joe Purdy Productions on Twitter saying 'You’re a liar and crook. You should be ashamed Joe. You’re an embarrassment to show business. I pity your cast'​.

One parent who attended the opening night performance but walked out of the production called the show a 'shambles' and said there were technical issues and the show had not even started on time meaning they were faced with a delay of almost 30 minutes. The attention of many children was not being held by the show, with an unchanging boring backdrop/set, very few props and poor sound this led to a disappointing experience. The Facilities Manager of the venue, Joshua Orme, gave a dismissive response to these claims stating 'you will have young children getting tired and wanting to leave'.

Claims were later allegedly made that Nick Newbould had 'bullied' his co-stars and had made them feel unhappy, this is something heavily denied by Nick and these allegations were only raised by Producer Joe Purdy after Newbould had taken the decision to step away from the production. No cast member themselves spoke of any such difficulties.

Troy Harris, a member of the Joe Purdy production team and personal friend of Producer Joe Purdy was asked to step into the role of Buttons but declined. 

Panto Archive reached out to Joe Purdy Productions to give them a right to reply to the allegations made by Nick Newbould. Joe Purdy said ' I have nothing to hide and have told no lies, he (Nick Newbould) agreed with us saying we were cancelling due to him being ill'. Joe Purdy did provide us with a copy of a message which Newbould had posted on a production group's Whatsapp group page on the Saturday morning  (pictured right). Although health is mentioned it is never exclusively given as the reason for Newbould's departure from the production but that word seems to have been cherry picked and exaggerated to put together a statement attempting to blame the cancelled performances solely on that aspect on Newbould's complaints and the wider issues were ignored. In a further exchange directly between Purdy and Newbould (Pictured right), Newbould makes his reasons for leaving relating to props, costumes and sounds very clear whilst Purdy pushes for agreement from Newbould to appease a 500 strong crowd who are expected at that mornings performance. This is not the first time Purdy has pulled out the 'Due to illness' card as an excuse when problems arise with his productions.

In a not unrelated dispute there is also an ongoing debate relating to monies (believed to run into thousands) owed to Mr Newbould for his work as Director on the show and for his appearance in the opening night production. Mr Newbould has stated he is owed money and that he was told by Joe Purdy that he might consider making some sort of payment at the end of the run.  Mr Purdy has denied that he is refusing to make payment and has cited the issue being with Mr Newbould failing to provide bank details and not sending an invoice which he was required to do as a self employed Actor and Director. All other cast members have reportedly been paid for their work so far on the production.

We asked Joe Purdy productions for their response and further clarification to issues raised by Newbould relating to front of house staffing, chaperones and to confirm changes had been made to the cast, set, props and sound. At the time of going to press we had received no further response but a twitter post was made on the official account for Bolton Panto stating..

 ' We’re back open tomorrow (Tuesday) folks! Fully cast and rehearsed fabulous show.. you’ve heard it from the horses mouth - don’t let aspiring journalists make you believe any different. Cinderella, you shall go to the ball!'

(After this article was published Joe Purdy apologised for not getting back to us with the answers we had asked for but said he had been busy in rehearsals with the revised cast. He said he found this article to be poorly written  - we gave him the chance to put forward his side of things by answering our questions but he was not forthcoming with this.)

Further scheduled performances of Cinderella as listed below have now also been cancelled 
Wednesday 4th December 1.30pm and 6.30pm
Thursday 5th December at 2pm
Sunday 15th December at 11am 
Sunday 22nd December at 11am

We would advise checking with the venue / production company ahead of travelling to see any of the other currently scheduled performances and would strongly recommend thinking seriously about purchasing tickets for this production companies future productions.
 

There is a place in the market for amateur pantomime production companies but the lines have been blurred in this instance by this company which has developed very quickly and inaccurately putting the perception out there that they are able to take on the likes of Qdos, Imagine, Polka Dot and other such companies with a proven track record. To Joe Purdy Productions we say don't try to run before you can walk,. The same production company has previously hit the headlines with their past pantomime productions for reasons including an advertised star not actually appearing as stated in the show, over selling tickets for a panto leaving families disappointed, cancelling shows at short notice with little or no excuse and at another performance the star of the show was reported as taking cocaine at the venue which later led to her high profile arrest and sacking.

For the full interview with Nick Newbould and Alex Belfield please visit http://youtu.be/0moCKpBCaL4

UPDATE: Following the release of this article and general concerns over the running of Joe Purdy Productions one of the stars booked to appear in their  2020 adult pantomime tour of Sinderella took the decision to distance themselves from the company and withdrew from the cast. The Vivienne (winner of Ru Paul's Drag Race UK) had orignally been due to star.

2019:JOE PURDY PRODUCTIONS ADULT PANTO TOUR

Early 2019 saw further problems for Joe Purdy Productions as they embarked on a UK tour of their adult pantomime Jack and His Giant Beanstalk which was advertised and heavily promoted as starring Scotty T from the reality series Geordie Shore. Divina De Campo, Danny Beard, Jamie Jones, Tam Ryan, Ryan Greeves, Jon Dylan Brown and Troy Harris were also part of the cast. The tour was scheduled to visit Bolton, Wrexham, Aberdeen, Blackpool, London and Newcastle

Despite being promoted for several months with Scotty T being the big pull for people to buy tickets things would take a dramatic change at the very last minute. Controversial Celebrity Big Brother star Austin Armacost was drafted in as a replacement for Scotty T with hours to spare. The official line stated this was 'due to a illness' a line that would come in handy later in the year once more for this production company.

Ticket sales were slow throughout the tour for this production and despite being 'too ill' to perform and amidst rumours he had walked out o the disastrous production and following a public backlash it was announced that rather than appearing n the production Scotty T would now take part in meet & greet sessions with the audience instead after the show.

With a growing backlash and the story being picked up by the national press, producer Joe Purdy took to twitter initially to deny claims that Scotty T had pulled out of the production saying 

"Massive thanks to all the national newspapers and tabloids today for announcing on my behalf that Scotty T has withdrawn from my adult pantomime, Jack and his Giant Beanstalk. Oh wait, sorry, get your facts totally right first next time. Don't believe everything you read."

It was soon reported that Scotty T would not be performing as Jack as originally planned proving those initial reports to be factually correct. Scotty T was instead given a massively downgraded role as The Giant for which he pre-recorded his lines and was then to make a brief on stage cameo ahead of performing his meet and greet sessions. Sadly Scotty T was unable to appear at every performance due to 'prior commitments' begging the question if he already had prior commitments how was he ever going to have been able to carry out his original role anyway. The situation regarding Scotty T's lack of appearance was described as 'uncontrollable' by the man himself.

2018: Joe Purdy's Not So Magical Land of Oz

Scores of disappointed north-east families were turned away at the door of a popular kids’ theatre show after a ticket offer blunder by the producers - Joe Purdy Productions.

Allanah Riddle was one of a number of people who had turned up at the Tivoli Theatre in Aberdeen hoping to take advantage of an online deal from the company of The Wizard Of Oz.

She was hoping to take her seven-year-old son Quinn and two of his pals to watch the stage show on Sunday afternoon after the production company advertised cut-price tickets.

Allanah, from Balmedie, claimed as many as 50 others were also turned away.

Joe Purdy Productions today apologised for the error and pledged to give those left out free tickets for their next Aberdeen show.

Allanah, 32, said: “We got the vouchers from the production company on October 20, which enabled us to get entry into the show for £5. On Sunday, theatre staff told us it was sold out.

“They said we could watch the later show, but we didn’t want to hang around for a few hours and risk it happening again, so we went home. We were angry and upset.

“The whole thing was poorly managed. It’s a nice theatre but it has definitely put me off going back there.”

The theatre’s manager Caroline Morgan said her staff were “devastated” to have to turn so many people away.

She said: “The Tivoli has not faced a situation like this before.

“The show promoter heavily publicised £5 tickets on social media and many took up this offer.

“Then a number of people turned up with emails from the producer saying tickets had been set aside for them to pay for at the door. Unfortunately we had reached our capacity.

“Staff had to deal with a lot of understandably upset and angry customers.

“We are devastated people were let down and turned away.

“We are having our own investigation with Joe Purdy, the producer. The issue was specific to this show.”

Mr Purdy said: “This was purely an administration error.

“This was our error and nothing to do with the venue.

“We apologise profoundly for this and will be reviewing everything in depth to ensure this doesn’t ever happen again.”

2018: Jimmy Osmond suffers stroke on stage

With a huge adoring fanbase, Birmingham audiences were in for a treat when Qdos confirmed singing legend Jimmy Osmond was heading their way to star as Captain Hook in Peter Pan for the 2018/19 season.

Jimmy was no stranger to panto having made several appearances in previous years with Captain Hook being one of his favorite roles. Poor Jimmy sadly had to withdraw from the production part way through the run after suffering a stroke whilst performing on stage. Despite suffering the stroke during the show, ever the professional Jimmy struggled through and managed to complete the performance because he did not want to disappoint fans. He was rushed straight to hospital following the performance where the stroke was diagnosed. 

Captain Hook understudy Luke Redford temporarily stepped into the role and then West end star Darren Day was drafted in at short notice to complete the run as Captain Hook as soon as his own pantomime commitments came to an end.

2018: Lee Ryan Pulls Out of Panto

Boyband singer Lee Ryan had been cast in the title role in Aladdin for Qdos at the New Wimbledon Theatre for the 2018/19 season and with comedian Paul Merton as Widow Twankey and Pete Firman as Wishee Washee it had all the promise of a fantastic show.

Disaster struck on the evening performance on Friday 27th December when Lee Ryan unexpectedly pulled out of the panto production halfway through a performance claiming to be suffering from a chest infection. The following week a spokesperson for Qdos Entertainment gave this statement: ‘On Friday night Lee Ryan informed us that he would not be continuing his contract, a position Qdos Entertainment has accepted.’ They added: ‘The part of Aladdin will now be covered by Chris Durtnal.

National press were quick to point out that Lee had been spotted partying hard throughout December and was a regular visitor to the pub across from the theatre casting doubt over the real reasons for his sudden panto departure. 

Lee would later blame this panto for ruining his soap career in Eastenders. Lee had accepted the panto role whilst still appearing in the hit BBC soap as at that time his character's future was looking uncertain with producers not willing to commit to the character's long term future leading Lee to accept other work, including the panto. This meant key storylines for his character were dropped and ultimately Lee was axed from his soap role. 

2019: Refunds given for sensationally bad panto

A venue that put on a "spectacularly bad" pantomime has offered a refund to all customers who paid to see it.

Jack and the Beanstalk at Chippenham's Neeld Community and Arts Centre was billed as boasting a "sparkling set and glittering costumes".

But one disgruntled punter said: "There were only three people, no scenery, they couldn't sing or dance."

The town council, which runs the venue, said it "was not the standard of show the Neeld is used to presenting".

The company behind the show, OOOH ARRR Productions, said there had been a "booking error" and it had received a "handful of complaints" but had agreed a full refund with the venue.

'Mortified'

The show ran from 27-29 December, and was sold out, with standard tickets priced at £7.00.

Posting on the 158-seat venue's Facebook page, ticket-buyer Natalie Uff described the panto as "awful".

"At one point they were talking to voices in the wings as they ran out of people," she said.

Another panto fan, Tereza Cleverley, said: "It was spectacularly bad. It felt as if two of the cast members had been pulled in at the last minute and it was their first live show."

And John Snell said he was "mortified" by the standard of the production.

The Chippenham show was promoted using photos taken from a previous production with a different cast.

In a statement, the town council said "we pride ourselves in providing high quality shows for Chippenham" but the "images provided by the company for promotional purposes did not reflect the show they brought to us".

"We had been assured by the theatre production company there would be a cast of six professional actors with industry standard staging," it added.

In a statement on its Facebook page, OOOH ARRR Productions said the "disappointment and confusion" was the result of a "booking error" which saw the original "six person production" replaced.

"There were conversations with the venue that involved replacing it with the three person cast due to it potentially not selling well," the spokesperson said.

"The other members of our staff were only made aware of this issue following the first performance."

The company apologised for the "disappointment experienced as a result of this booking error" and added the person "responsible for this error" had left the company.

On its website, the Malmesbury-based firm describes itself as a "professional theatre company" that takes pride in being "fun, affordable and relevant".

2018: Maidstone panto cancelled

The team that cancelled the Christmas pantomime has said customers would all get refunds.

Promoter Danny Wright confirmed  that Snow White and the Seven Dwarves show would not be doing any more shows in a statement made on 18th December 2018.

It was meant to be set at The Friars, Aylesford, but had to shut down after contractors claimed they had not been paid in full.

Organisers blamed the decision on "a select few who are not willing to make this work."

The statement said: "Although we have had much support from many contractors, locals and The Friars, a select few are not willing to make this work.

"With the weather of November becoming a huge factor to this result.

"Long term, we’ve been up against it from the beginning, with local authorities, opposition theatres and people in power really not supporting what we are trying to achieve, and have not made it easy.

"All we were trying to do was bring something bigger to Maidstone, but unfortunately many have not seen it that way. The event itself shows that there is a strong need for a larger event space or theatre in the area, or access shall be made more accessible by local authorities to event spaces already established.

"The show was great, and the cast, crew, FOH staff and our audiences were all fantastic.

"To all of our event partners and sponsors, we sincerely apologise for the unexpected occurrence of the event.

2017: The Tina Malone Scandal

In 2017 Joe Purdy Productions saw their production of Sleeping Beauty struck by a drugs scandal that would rock the panto world and hit the front pages of national newspapers.

Ex Brookside and Shameless star Tina Malone was booked to the lead the cast playing villain Carabosse but was sensationally sacked after being found to have been using cocaine backstage at the venue in Cumbria.

The actress was arrested outside of the  the venue as she tried to leave in a taxi after shocked theatre staff tipped off the police with claims that Malone had told one parent watching the performance that the white powder under her nose was showbiz snow.  Police searched the star and found her to have the drug on her person. The actress later admitted to being in possession of the class A drug but not before trying to claim that the drugs had been oplanted on her and that she had been set up. Earlier in the day she had misplaced her 'bag of snow' and was making her way around the backstage cast and crew asking if anyone had found it. Tina begged police not to handcuff her as they led her away from the venue as the audience from the previous show were still exiting and she would be in full view. Malone was replaced by a male actor called Alan French for the rest of the run.

2017: Times Square Panto Fiasco

Hundreds of fans were left out in the cold after the pantomime starring former Emmerdale actor Adam Thomas was cancelled on its last day. The production of Jack and the Beanstalk was due to come to an end with two final performances but a notice posted on the door at the Times Square Pantomime venue confirmed it had ended early.

The notice blamed the cancellation on the venue's heating system, but furious fans hit out at the show for only making the news available on the door of the building and not on social media.

One fan blasted: "What a shambles, hundreds of people outside upset that @timessqpanto has been cancelled."

"Haven't even got the decency to announce it on their twitter page.

: Absolutely shocking service from @timessqpanto, turn up to the panto with a sign on the door to say that it’s cancelled! What an absolute joke no email no phone call nothing!!"

Shock claims from the Mirror newspaer alleged the actors threatened to walk out of the show if they weren't paid what was owed to them and just ahead of the penultimate performance at 2pm, the show was cancelled.

It came just weeks after actress Denise Welch quit the role of Mother Nature because she wasn’t paid and was concerned by "chaotic" rehearsals. The Loose Women star left the production  after a series of problems backstage including cast and crew not receiving wages on time, "chaotic rehearsals" and sets not being finished on time, insiders claim.

The source says: “It was a total shambles backstage – the panto wasn’t ready to open when it was due to, so the first two days of shows were cancelled.

“Sets weren’t finished, a technical rehearsal couldn’t go ahead because the production was running so behind.

“Another rehearsal was a total disaster, and then cast weren’t being paid on time or at all. At one point, an Equity rep had to be called in to mediate.

“A few days into panto rehearsals, Denise and other cast started getting concerned as it wasn’t very professional at all because no-one seemed to know what they were doing."

The insider added: “Some of the crew had never even worked backstage before.”

In a statement Denise told The Sun Online: "I am so terribly upset and hugely disappointed that I will no longer be appearing in the Times Square Pantomime in Newcastle.

“Those who know me and have supported me during my 40 year career will know how passionate I am about my job, Newcastle and its people.

"All I ever wanted was to star in a fabulous, spectacular pantomime that I have been proudly publicising since February.

“If there was anything I could do to change this highly regrettable situation I would.

“Legally, I can say no more but I write this with a heavy heart.”

2015: Ben Anderson fails to pay panto actors

A pantomime producer previously investigated for fraud was  accused of owing thousands of pounds to his 2015 casts and crew.

Ben Anderson’s company Strictly Productions produced four pantomimes in the year, with people involved in with three of them reporting that they were owed more than £20,000 collectively.

Police looked into Anderson’s activities in 2014 following claims he owed dance schools money after setting up an unaccredited exam board. At the time, the police did not proceed with their investigation. However, claims of unpaid monies in relation to pantomimes Anderson produced then emerged from cast and crew members on Jack and the Beanstalk at the Forum Theatre in Barrow-in-Furness, Aladdin at Blackpool’s North Pier Theatre, and Peter Pan at the Grange Theatre in Northwich – which featured reality stars Nikki Grahame and Christopher Maloney.

Among those reporting that they had not received full payment was Grahame’s agency White Label Management, which claimed it was owed around £3,000 in unpaid VAT.

A representative confirmed that everyone involved in the pantomime was due to be paid in weekly instalments, but the payments were “around four days late” each time. He said the agency had been paid the fees due for Grahame’s appearance, but was still waiting on the VAT.

“When someone comes forward with what looks like professional pantomime, a reputable fee, an office… you don’t really see this kind of thing happening,”they told The Stage.

Grahame had been cast in the pantomime before it was revealed Anderson was being investigated by police for fraud in September 2015. The representative said he “had reservations” about her starring in the production after reading The Stage’s article, but added: “I think you always have to give someone another chance and nothing up to [the late payments] had been questionable.”

White said he last spoke to Anderson in February, after which he said the pantomime producer had stopped replying to emails and phone calls.

A crew member, who did not want to be named, worked on three of the pantomimes and he was waiting to be paid £9,000 – including his wages and expenses incurred while working on the production – which he claims Anderson said he would pay back.

Other people who said they had not received payments included Joe Purdy, who was hired as a production assistant on Aladdin at the North Pier Theatre and production manager on Jack and the Beanstalk at the Forum Theatre. Purdy claimed he loaned Anderson £7,500 towards the latter production, but is still owed £5,500.

The same pantomime’s star, Jade Meaney, told  The Stage she was owed £4,250 in wages. She worked for both the Barrow-in-Furness festive show and the earlier pantomime Aladdin, staged over the October half term. Her Aladdin co-star Steven Hall, a Britain’s Got Talent finalist in 2011, claimed he was owed £500.

One source estimated that Anderson owed more than £30,000 to cast and crew members of the four pantomimes.

An attempt was made to dissolve Strictly Productions in April, but was halted after an objection by a creditor.

A few weeks earlier, Anderson had set up a new company: Majestical Theatrical Associates Limited.

Anderson could not be reached for comment.

2015: Pay row closes panto early

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs at the White Rose Theatre in Leeds came to an abrupt end after a pay row closed down the production.

With a top star cast including comedy legend Jimmy Cricket, Brookside's Louis Emerick, Coronation Street's Tupele Dorgu, Geordie Shore hunk Scotty T , Rainbow puppet royalty Zippy & George and a video appearance from Ken Dodd this had all the ingredients of a triumphant panto in the making.

Sadly a success it was not!  After audiences complained that it was practically unwatchable the panto has had the rest of its run cancelled. The Geordie Shore star Scotty T, who played ‘Prince’ in the Snow White show, quit the show earlier the same week after complaining a ‘scam’ meant he wasn’t being paid what was originally promised. A performance of show was then cancelled without a warning  just before it was about to begin as Scotty walked out, becoming the first of many cast members to leave. Three further shows that were promised for the Friday night, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day were then suddenly also pulled.

Scotty T wasn’t afraid to expose those he thought had underpaid him, tweeting: ‘In my view, this whole production has been a scam with no funds for wages from day one and false promises delivered from the directors about funds'

he continued...

‘I would like to apologise to everyone who has purchased tickets for the event and I’m so sorry that I will no longer be a part of this performance. ‘I am sad that I have not been able to finish my commitment to the rest of the cast. I apologise to anyone who was hoping to see me in the performance, but I hope you understand my reasons.’

Refunds were being offered to everyone who had tickets for the last three performances of the panto. Writing on their website, bosses as The White Rose Theatre — where the show was held — explained that ‘industrial issues’ had led to the show’s cancellation.

‘It is with the deepest regret and our sincere apologies to patrons that due to industrial issues that Liberty Events (Leeds) Ltd hereby advise the remaining scheduled performances of the pantomime Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs at the White Rose Theatre, Leeds are cancelled,’ the statement read.

2004: Jimmy Krankie falls from Beanstalk

Children's entertainer Wee Jimmy Krankie, or in real life Janette Tough, was taken to hospital with head injuries after falling 10ft off a pantomime beanstalk in Glasgow.

The 57-year-old was starring in a production of Jack and the Beanstalk at the Glasgow Pavilion Theatre and fell off the prop during a matinee show. 

Fellow cast member Scottish soap star Gary Hollywood (Mrs Brown's Boys star) was also said to have been injured in the fall.

The duo's conditions were on the day described as stable by the Glasgow Royal Infirmary. The  evening performance at the theatre had to be been cancelled and the audience who saw the fall during the day have been given a full refund.

A spokesman for the Scottish Ambulance Service said: "Wee Jimmy Krankie fell out of the beanstalk on to the stage and was taken to Glasgow Royal Infirmary."

Wee Jimmy, a cheeky Scottish schoolboy, is played by actress Janette Tough, who stars alongside her husband Ian Tough in their double act The Krankies.

The accident took place as the first half of the pantomime drew to a close.

The special lift which holds up the beanstalk fell, sending Mrs Tough and her co-star crashing onto the stage.

Theatre Manager Iain Gordon said: "She was at the top of the beanstalk at the end of act one.

"The beanstalk goes in the air about five metres, and as they were coming down approximately 10ft from the ground the beanstalk bent."