Updated: Jan 19, 2020
Guest Reviewer: Philip Spurgeon
Dick Whittington is the only pantomime based on a true subject - oh yes it is! Richard Whittington (unlike his panto ego) wasn’t a penniless boy, in fact he was the son of an Alderman – Sir William Whittington of Pauntley. In the panto version we find ourselves in London town where poor Dick eventually arrives to turn his fortunes around, but (in true panto style) it won’t be easy. The pace was slick from the outset and we travelled seamlessly from the hustle and bustle of London town to the ferocious stormy seas.
Olly Smith as King Rat was a regal rascal, he injected just the right amount of comedy into his evilness and had the audience just where he wanted them, his comedic timing was spot on and both his musical numbers were a joy - great performance.
Emily Hatton as Fairy Bowbells was the epitome of the classic, sparkly, good fairy with a brilliant cockney accent akin to someone born under the Bow bells.
Charlie Warner as Dick Whittington strode on to the stage with huge confidence and great stature. Charlie sang well throughout and delivered his dialogue with ease; I felt like I was on the journey with him – great job! In time honoured tradition, Dick doesn’t travel alone, he is joined by Tom the Cat played by Amy Swallow. Amy was amazingly feline in her portrayal, always in character with balletic movement and poise, a lovely voice and I particularly liked the fight sequence in Act 2; reminiscent of how the cast move in the musical Cats.
Matthew Greed as Alderman Fitzwarren was every bit the father figure in this show; his highlight was the long tongue twister which he repeated at lightning speed receiving a huge ovation from the audience.
Alderman Fitzwarren’s daughter Alice was played by Grace Robards who was perfect as the sweet, innocent young girl who toils for her father and is still looking for love – in strides Dick Whittington – brilliant facial reaction from Grace. A lovely performance and a great singing voice too.
Tom Hennessey burst on to the stage as Dame Dolly Dumpling and he didn’t disappoint. With bright costumes and ever-changing wigs, he thrust male cast members to his chest with vigour (to be repeated several times, but so funny). The Dame is probably one of the hardest characters to play but Tom demonstrated that he’s got what it takes to do it justice. The traditional ‘baking scene’ was brilliantly funny with so much innuendo and he really did end up with a ‘soggy bottom’ thanks to his son Idle Jack played by Beau Hens. Beau had the audience eating out of his hand and he’s clearly read the panto rule book – if the audience don’t react, go off and do it again. His tag line ‘Pull your socks up Jack’ was a real crowd pleaser and more so when he reminded us, he wasn’t wearing any. Well done Beau.
Daisy Loerns and Millie Sheldrick gave us the hapless Captain Cuttlefish and Scupper who worked well together as the comedy double act. Their dialogue was full of very funny one liners which they delivered really well; the highlight for me was their first entrance in the rowing boat which brought the house down - hilarious.
Marcus Renshaw as the Sultan of Morocco gave us the Strictly glitz and glamour, we were all waiting for. Marcus with the ensemble performed the Kiss Kiss song which was excellent. Marcus knew how to play it and at every dance break danced with a dead pan face which had the audience in hysterics; proper belly laughter is a wonderful thing – Fab-U-lous.
There are so many other characters that added to this wonderful pantomime, from the rats, to the townsfolk, the sailors and of course the Sultan’s dancers; all of whom gave brilliant performances.
Alexandra Berriman’s Direction clearly shone through in this production and I particularly noticed the attention to detail; the towns folk going about their business behind the principles, crossovers, filling the stage and there was always somebody at the helm when we boarded the ship in Act 2. Amy Hart’s choreography was superb as it was clear that the dance moves suited the entire cast and each step had been well rehearsed. Leah Cave as MD clearly put the children through their paces as the big ensemble numbers were very strong. The staging was simplistic but very effective with the addition of well-presented props.
It was lovely to walk out of the theatre feeling thoroughly uplifted and this is all due to the entire team (on and off stage) who work tirelessly to make these productions happen. I strongly believe community theatre is the future and we all need to do everything we can to continue supporting it. A brilliant night's entertainment enjoyed by anyone fortunate enough to buy a ticket