Review of 'Dick Whittington'

dick.jpg https://dickwhittingtonpalladium.com/

A traditional Christmas Pantomime, and one that is quite specifically London-based Dick Whittington at the amazing Palladium has to be a theatrical pinnacle of the holiday season in London.

Of course, as with most pantomimes, the story is very much just an excuse for the stage shenanigans. In this case we follow the story of young Dick Whittington (Charlie Stemp) who leaves his home in Lancashire travels to London with his cat Eileen (Lukus Alexander) to seek his fortune taken in by the beautiful Alice Fitzwarren (Emma Williams) and her mother who runs the Fitzwarren sweet shop. London is plagued with rats lead by the “Queen Rat” (Elaine Page). The mayor has decreed that anyone ridding the city of the plague will be made Lord Mayor. Dick is framed by the Queen for theft and sent out of the city. Alice convinces the mayor to give Dick another chance so he is made part of the crew of a ship headed by Captain Nigel (Nigel Havers). The ship is attacked by the Queen and sinks, washing the crew onto the shores of Morocco where the sultan (normally Ashley Banjo but during our performance by Warren Russell) and his band of guards (the dance group Diversity). The “Spirit of the Bells” (Julian Clary) works with Dick to do away with the rats with no surprises for guessing the ending…

Quite a triumph of the Christmas panto with all cast providing tremendous performances throughout. Paul Zerdin as “Idle Jack” with his puppet mastery provides light entertainment between scenes including some audience participation (where he uses a couple from the audience as “puppets” seems a lot like a plant to me but a later bit with some children in the audience is wonderful in it's charm). Nigel Havers (Captain Nigel) hams it up with the on-going joke about him looking for a larger role in this year's panto showing up as often as possible. If anything Diversity is underutilised and I think not as polished and precise as we would expect from them perhaps due to the absence in this performance of Banjo. Elaine Page is fun as the villainous Queen Rat hamming it up for the crowd and making fun of her own personality with parody versions of many of her songs including “I know him so well” (“I know Dick so well”) from Chess though I have to think that those not too familiar with musicals may miss the humour of it.

Clary is without a doubt the star of the show and, as would be expected, is always showing up on the stage in preposterous outfits (including one where his dress is fashioned as the Liberty store in London) but it is his whit that shines here with numerous asides and fast-paced humour. In this performance, very close to the last, each actor was trying very hard to distract the others. For example, early in the show Stemp forgot one of his lines and Clary did not let it go with several minutes of sharply barbed – but very humorous comments – aimed at his fellow actor. I am sure much of Clary's dialogue was completely unscripted which tremendously added to the show. Yes, it was quite…risque…for a family show but most of it was nod-nod, wink-wink sort of stuff that is taken on different levels making it amusing for both child and adult.

The sets are truly astonishing. At one point a giant rat appears on the stage and travels into the middle of the auditorium above the people in the stalls then a London bus (yes, a London bus) flies out and towards the end a ship. Quite spectacular with obviously no expense spared. This does, however, bring up the price as for a pantomime it was quite expensive with tickets easily in excess of £100 each which I have to think would exclude many from seeing this incredible show (there are lower priced tickets but, obviously, they will have sold out very quickly and afford not very good views of the stage…though here the set is so massive this may not be such a problem). We were lucky to have received a bargain for our tickets otherwise the price was simply very difficult to justify.

I have to admit this is easily the best pantomime I have ever seen. Everything was perfect: The sets, the acting, the music, the fun…Really incredible and left us in stitches. Shame about the price of tickets…


A few amusing quips: “You won't see THAT in Hamilton”, “Where are my buccaneers? On the side of your head and watch your language this is a children's show!”, “What do you call a Shih Tzu [dog]? One where there are no animals.”…

Rating:

Review Date: 2018-01-14



London Palladium

Location: London (England)

Address: Argyll Street, London England, W1F 7TF

Public Transport: TUBE Oxford Circus

Telephone: +44 (0) 844 412 4655

URL: http://www.reallyusefultheatres.co.uk/our-theatres/london-palladium

The grand old daddy of London theatres, the Palladium has a long and illustrious history of Vaudeville, pantomime, the Royal Variety Performance show (held yearly as a “command performance” for the royal family), “Sunday Night at the London Palladium” live television show as well as big modern musicals including the Sound of Music, Mary Poppins and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Access to the theatre is simple as it is immediately adjacent to Oxford Circus and on a quiet side street that is (normally) vehicle free. The interior of the theatre is magnificent in a classical way having been recently restored.