This is a very naughty pantomime, boys and girls, and you’re going to laugh your little Christmas stockings off.
Pantomimes are like marmite, you either love them or can’t even bear the thought of kissing someone who’s consumed one. Today, I sit very firmly in the love camp (oooOOOOoooh ‘love camp,’ I’m even writing innuendos now) and that’s because Dick Whittington is a very clever pantomime indeed. It takes the kids in the audience on a dazzling, magical journey while giving the adults more than enough to have a dirty little giggle about.
The show has all your classic panto ingredients: the larger-than-life dame, the sing-along song, plenty of pyrotechnics and lots of cross dressing, sweet throwing, boo-hissing and it’s-behind-yous, plus a few fabulous surprises to boot. It’s a very generous production, with oodles of colourful sets and props, an endless array of dazzling costumes (with ‘Dame Donut’ unsurprisingly showcasing the most awesome outfits) and a fast-moving plot (your understanding of which is completely immaterial, thank goodness).
One of the standout moments for me was seeing my nephew both terrified and mesmerised by the evil Rat King (booooooo), played flawlessly by Reuben Kaye. I recall being near traumatised by a wicked witch in a panto circa 1983, and this experience made me the woman I am today; i.e. slightly unhinged with a healthy fear of evil. The cat, ‘Tiger Billy’, was played by the ludicrously talented aerial artist Tori Moone who you may have seen flying in to the Olympics opening ceremony as Mary Poppins. She made a most puuuuurfect pussy cat, slinking about the stage in effortless feline fashion.
The daft plot doesn’t matter one jot: in panto good things happen because of ‘destiny’ and not for any real, logical reason. For example, I still have no idea how Dick Whittington actually became Mayor of London; it seems he just found himself there after a series of bizarre and irrelevant events (which of course wouldn’t happen in real life…would it, Boris?).
It was refreshing to watch a completely uninhibited performance; with everyone acting completely ridiculously there is no room for ego or self-consciousness, and when things go wrong (which they do) the results are hilarious ad-lib rather than an anxious cover-up. As we left the theatre, my brother commented “Anyone who didn’t enjoy that is taking themselves far too seriously,” while my nephew continued to beam (albeit still with a touch of terror behind his eyes). Dick Whittington is frightful fun.