Director and Choreographer: Nick Winston
Reviewer: Dan English
Shane Richie takes us down to Ol’ London Town at Dartford’s Orchard Theatre for its festive pantomime offering, Dick Whittington.
Directed by Nick Winston, the production is a fun-filled two-hour romp through Whittington’s journey from sleepy commoner to Lord Mayor of London, with a little help from his cat. There is animatronic mayhem and a well-placed 3D section that provides an enjoyable evening’s entertainment for children and parents alike.
Richie is a charismatic yet innocent Whittington, bringing his West-End showmanship together with his East-End charm to capture the audience’s imagination throughout. Richie showcases his talents at both physical and verbal comedy, with his ‘pheasant plucker’ routine a highlight of the show. Furthermore, his ability to make even the most obvious ad-lib look professional is a testament to his performance and his acting ability, with his interaction with the other performers and the audience creating a spark that guides this production successfully.
Malcolm Lord is Sarah Fitzwarren, the pantomime Dame, who provides much of the more adult humour. Lord combines humorous costumes with a wicked sense of comic timing to amuse the audience while being the champion of the ‘Dick’ puns that are scattered among this performance too.
Lord combines well with Phil Hitchcock, who is Alderman Fitzwarren, Sarah’s husband. Hitchcock is the antithesis to the bawdy humour of both Richie’s and Lord’s characters, but Hitchcock’s talents lie in the magic that he performs throughout. There are a number of mind-boggling tricks, including a typical but still impressive trick involving a number of doves, which kept the audience engrossed even as the plot began to stall.
It’s a small cast, but there are enjoyable performances from the villain, King Rat (Pete Gallagher), The Spirit of the Bells (Ashleigh Gray) and Alice Fitzwarren (Danielle Corlass). Gallagher’s fiendish villain is your typical pantomime bad-guy and Gallagher uses his rat costume and his huge stature to domineer successfully both the other characters and the audience. Gray’s Spirit is the angelic Fairy Godmother type, guarding over Dick when he gets into trouble, whileCorlass’ Alice is the sweet daughter who is Dick’s love interest, showcasing her singing talents throughout.
There is a 3D (arguably 4D) section to this pantomime, which appears to be appearing more and more frequently in pantomimes across the country. It takes the audience under the seaafter Dick and co get into some boat trouble. At first, this does feel like a mere gap-fill gimmick, but by the end, this section encapsulates the audience with a number of animations that make even the sternest observer jumpand is enhanced by Richie providing a commentary to it.
However, while this section escapes the clutches of a gap-fill gimmick, the end of Act One does appear to fall into it. The act ends with a mightily impressive Kraken towering over the audience, but this lasts for what feels like forever, with the accompanying soundtrack and Kraken noises providing an assault on the senses.
Despite this, Dick Whittington is a fun pantomime that laughs at itself as well as providing comic humour to the audience. It is lavishly designed (Hugh Durrant) and provides humour that is suited to all. The performance is certainly driven by Richie’s loveable character, but it is only successful because of the slick displays by the entire cast and impressive dance ensemble that kickstarts the Christmas countdown.
Runs until 3 January 2016 | Image: Craig Sugden