Sunday, 13 December 2015

Dick? That's an interesting name...



...and plenty of it there was at Wilton's, as Hils, History Boy, John-John, Julie, Jim, Madam Arcati and I journeyed to one of our favourite venues in the whole world, Wilton's Music Hall, to see their first ever pantomime Dick Whittington on Friday evening.

The "Dick" in question was not merely the eponymous hero of the story (the square-jawed Josh Tevendale), but also the two extremely cute and athletic ballet-dancing chorus boys/"Citizens" Connor Byrne and Rhys Whiteside. They gave us queens something to preoccupy ourselves with, as the ever-so-traditional panto romp unfolded.

Written by that ebullient "national treasure" Roy Hudd, this is also the great Music Hall afficionado's first time playing the Dame. Of course, gap-toothed, saggy boobed and with ad-libs a-plenty, he made a marvellous job of it! The jokes were as groansome, and some of the musical numbers as (intentionally) corny as one might expect. Due to the constraints of the hall's environs, set-changes were artfully done during the dance numbers, and the small two-tier stage meant loads of excuses for some dramatic leaps between levels - not least by Steven Hardcastle as "Tommy the Cat", who threw himself about with such abandon, there was concern he might have ended up over this side of the stage at one point...



This was a pantomime in its most time-honoured fashion; less about the double-entendres (although, of course they were there in abundance), the "knowingness" or the Z-list "celebrity" guest stars of more modern interpretations of the genre, and more about the old-fashioned type of humour that so much entertainment has left behind these days. There was slapstick galore, not least the interaction between Mr Hudd's "Sarah the Cook" and her "son", the comic foil "Idle Jack" (Simon Burbage). One of the very best numbers was They Call It Automation - a perfectly-choreographed "patter song" whereby each character in turn performed a repetitive set of actions (including boxing jabs, high kicks and robotic side-swipes), which as they lined up next to each other, was synched so that no-one slapped or punched the next. It was hilarious to watch (and we couldn't help but wonder how many mishaps occurred during rehearsals!).



The aforementioned Messrs Hudd and Burbage (and the assembled totty) aside, the rest of the cast, especially Ian Parkin (of "Four Poofs and a Piano" fame) as both London merchant "Willy Widl" and the "Maharajah" and Amelia-Rose Morgan as his daughter and Dick's love interest "Alice" (despite a few too many "wibbles" in her singing), the "Citizens" and the little kids playing the "Rats" were all fab.

Speaking of rats, however... The performance to beat all performances was the villainous "Ratface" (part Ozzy Osbourne, part Russell Brand; opening number? Rat Out Of Hell, of course) played with camp gusto by Gareth Davies. He played up to the audience's expectations - all the boos and hisses, "Oh no you won't/Oh yes we will"s and "It's behind you"s were present and correct; we were hoarse by the end - and his plotting and interactions with the "Good Fairy" Nicole Davis (often from opposing balconies above the crowd) held the whole story together.

We had a whale of a time. As "proper" pantomimes go, this was one of the best!

Dick Whittington and his Cat is on at Wilton's Music Hall until 31st December 2015.

12 comments:

  1. It all sounds quite heavenly and enormously good fun. Sadly, unless you count woeful dramatizations of A Christmas Carol, we on this side of the pond are short on holiday theatre traditions. On the other hand, we're drowning in Messiahs if that's one's sort of thing...

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    1. It is a shame. Although I think I would pay good money to see "Roy Hudd's Messiah". Jx

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  2. Glad you enjoyed it and it was a good production.

    I think the hardest British traditions ever to explain to foreigners would be panto, the Archers and Carry On films.

    Muscato I love the Messiah.

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    1. There are many British cultural references that are sadly lost on our American chums - not just the above, but also Coronation Street, the Eurovision Song Contest and bingo. Jx

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  3. I'm fascinated by Panto, especially since it is so strictly limited to England. And Josh Tevendale certainly looks like he'd be worth a night on the town.

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    1. He could get his legs up ever so high... Jx

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  4. Listened to an interview with Arthur Smith once. He said he did panto in Denmark and the theatre was full of (Danish) English literature students with learned books on this strange form of theatre.

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    1. Imagine! A degree in "Pantomime Studies". I wonder what the Danish is for "It's behind you!" Jx

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    2. It was a wonderful evening - everything you could wish for in a panto. Not the best ever (that accolade belongs to the Stephen Fry penned Cinderella), but a very close run second. And all fuelled by some very potent mulled wine too! Fab 
      Hils x

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    3. You do have a degree in "Oh no you won't/Oh yes we will". And mulled wine! Jx

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  5. Great fun indeed, Wiltons is a wonderful venue, and the mix of the light hearted fun, the music the comedy was Panto at its apogee, like comfy slippers for the mind:) Thanks for bringing this to our attention, cheers History Boy x x

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    1. So pleased you enjoyed it as much as we did! Jx

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