Richard Fitt reviews Dick Whittington

Dick Whittington
by Julie Petrucci and Chris Shinn
performed by Waterbeach Theatre Company
directed by Emma Boulton-Luckie

One of those wonderful home-grown pantomimes, written by two of the society's stalwarts, Julie Petrucci and Chris Shinn, where you take the basic traditional story and then go off on a huge tangent. In this case having quickly got rid of the rats in London in act one via comedic trips to a sweet shop, in act two we find ourselves on a two-week trip to France. When still out at sea our dame manages to sink the boat by blowing up the ship's oven while attempting to cook a romantic meal of Seagull pie - mmm yum! So, we found ourselves shipwrecked on a tropical island complete with palm trees, only to discover it is inhabited by a native tribe also suffering from a plague of rats. Guess what happens next. Suspending navigational and geographical disbelief for the moment this was actually very well written with some really clever one-liners and double-entendres in it, as well of course with all the usual corny ones. And the audience, particularly the children loved it!

The set, managed by Cath Langridge and constructed under the management of Chris Shinn and Mark Easterfield was particularly impressive with a very brightly coloured opening back cloth of a London Street, complete with the usual London landmarks in the background, and subsequent scenes such as the Sweet Shop and the Island equally as bright. The furniture and property department did a particularly excellent job of dressing the stage for the indoor scenes such as the Sweet Shop. Although disappointingly no effort was made to give any background to the nautical scenes such as the dockside or onboard the ship which were played to curtain sets. The really clever scene however was the use of UV to depict the sinking of the ship, which was designed and choreographed by Katherine Maltby and performed by several of the chorus and three of the children which produced lots of oohs and aahs and a huge laugh. A superb piece of originality! Well done indeed to Katherine Maltby. Loved it!

Lighting was also particularly effective and completed the bright cheery look to the set. You couldn't look at it without a smile on your face, and well done also to spot operator John Meredith, great job.

Sound was however a bit of a problem. Although I am a huge advocate of the dying art of projection and whereas the dialogue was crystal clear and well projected, when it came to all the solo songs they did come across quite weak and I did feel, against my natural instinct, they were in need of some amplification. However, my hat off to them for trying without modern electronic aids. A battle destined to be lost unfortunately, I fear.

Costumes by Joy Sinclair were well sourced with of course the traditional garish dresses for the dame and wigs and makeup by Susan Barnes and Hannah Curtis complimented them perfectly. Particularly like the dame changing to matching wigs with each costume.

Choreography by Katherine Maltby was basic and traditionally simple but well executed by the chorus and most of the principals, but one or two of the principals in the front row could have done with a tad more rehearsal and struggled with keeping in sync with the well drilled chorus behind them.

Musical director Roisin O'Shea put together some great pop numbers from a wide range of artists from The Pet Shop Boys to Dolly Parton, Bruno Mars, The Communards, The Pointer Sisters and Marvin Gaye, which were all still thoroughly enjoyed, despite the lack of amplification.

An upbeat Fairy Bow Bells played by Clare McDonald and our evil Queen Rat played by Christine Easterfield were a great sparing pair of good and evil fairies. Some particularly well delivered clever and comic rhyming lines by the 'spellbound' Queen Rat.

Ably played by Michelle Smith our hero Dick Whittington played a fairly straight role having good empathy with young Graihagh Bolton as her faithfully cat Tommy, obviously enjoying herself chasing rats across the stage with some lovely expressions. Clearly experienced in the role, James Dowson as our Dame, Sarah The Cook had both great delivery and that essential ingredient of quick fire repartee with the audience and was undoubtedly the 'Queen' pin of the show.

My standout performance has to go to Vicki Hingley as Idle Jack whose comedic timing of some of the best (and worse) gags was quite hilarious and delivered with a great tongue in check attitude.

Our love interest, Alice Fitzwarren was demurely played by Sarah Hodder and her very upstanding father, Alderman Fitzwarren was played by David Morris.

The entrance of the night, from the back of the auditorium, has to go to Chas Barclay as the very imposing Captain Cooke. Apart from handling the comedy rather well he also proved himself a very able leader of the community song, Drunken Sailor.

The great contrast was the tropical island with some wonderful comedic false beards for our chorus of natives and toga style costume with European style Crown for our King of Mycoco played by James Windle with Penny Clay as his Hand.

Well done indeed to the hard working Chorus of Vicky Butt, Caroline Blair, Wendy Croft, Ceren Kaser and Tina Seeley and our Junior Ensemble who were also our chorus of rats, John Barber, Indiana Bolton, Henry McDonald, Olivia Power and Zoe Naylor.

Congratulations therefore to director Emma Bolton-Luckie and her team, a well delivered traditional panto with all the audience interaction that appeals to its intended young audience but also entertained their grown-up relatives who lapped it up.

Finally, thank you Waterbeach Theatre Company for your usual excellent hospitality.

Richard Fitt
Regional Representative NODA East
District 4N

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