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Dick Whittington

by Trish Cook and Robert Hyam

**** The Guardian

It's not every day you hear 500 people enthusiastically chanting: "We want Dick! We want Dick!" But, although this show does not shy away from obvious double entendres, it is basically a family-friendly panto that, as so often at this address, puts a new spin on a familiar tale.

The creative team of Trish Cooke (book and lyrics) and Robert Hyman (composer and musical director) certainly come up with some original ideas as well as some punchy songs. Here, Dick is a homeless orphan entrusted with the role of nightwatchman at Alderman Fitzwarren's fancy cheese emporium. When King Rat and his gang steal the prize specimen, virtually the whole cast goes off on a lunar expedition to recover a substitute. This gives designers Jenny Tiramani and Harriet Barsby the chance to come up with futuristic space-age sets and exotic costumes for the moon-men, whose bodies sprout verdant antennae.

Like all good pantomimes, this one relies on the exuberant personality of its performers. Delroy Atkinson, in pink pinny and ankle-socks, is a wonderfully roguish Shirley the Cook who, when contemplating Fitzwarren's spacecraft, remarks: "It's so much bigger than I remember." Michael Bertenshaw plays the chief rodent as a louche East-End villain, and there is vigorous support from Tony Jayawardena as a camp cat ("Feel my fur. It's simply gorgeous") and Miranda Menzies as a genuinely unearthly, double-jointed Alien Queen. In Kerry Michael's production, it's a raucous, rowdy, inclusive panto that even manages to embrace an on-stage steel band. It may not be quite Dick Whittington as you remember it, but it's all the better for it.

Michael Billington The Guardian Dec 2013

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