Writer and Director: Richard Gauntlett
The lights are up, the presents are under the tree, and Richard Gauntlett has got his giant dresses out of the closet; that can only mean that panto is making its return in Norwich. It’s the most magical time of year when we eschew the plays, the operas, and the ballets and instead welcome in the biggest costumes, most elaborate sets, and the truly cringe-worthy jokes. This year, after an enforced year away from it all, it seems the writers, cast, and indeed the audience and more than ready for it all (oh yes they are!)
Dick Whittington and his Cat of course tells the rags to riches story of a young man leaving home with nothing but his spotted handkerchief, his cat, and a dream of fame and fortune. In this incarnation, we see Siân Reeves as the Queen of the Rats and the nemesis of our Mr Whittington (Gyasi Sheppy). Sheppy makes for a bright-eyed and fun protagonist opposite Jarnéia Richard-Noel whose vocal performance are an unexpected delight. Reeves makes for an excellent villain with a focus on movement and the backup of an ensemble of rats perfect for booing and jeering.
The pairing of Joe Pollard and Richard Gauntlett, back as the dame once again, proves to be an excellent pairing in their first year together showing off their comedic timing and barely controlled chaos. It is Joe Tracini as Tommy the Cat who steals the show this year however. Tracini is consistently the best part of any scene he is in, whether he’s centre stage cracking jokes, or in the background providing his own dance moves entirely apart from whatever is going on centre stage.
Every year at the panto, there is always a scene that has a lasting impression, and in the ten years of this reviewer attending the Norwich panto, that scene has always been the funniest of the show. This year though, the scene that will likely stay with the audience consisted of Joe Tracini, sitting in a barrel, and playing the ukulele. The song he performs is funny, sincere, and heart-breaking. It shouldn’t work in panto, but it truly does.
In this panto, there are some missed cues, a wayward prop or two, and a few bum notes, but this show is big, bright, and beautiful with a genuine heart and a cast who light up the theatre reminding everyone in attendance why it is we missed this so very much.
Runs Until: 9 January 2022