Dick Whittington

1 December 15 words: Ian Douglas
Everybody loves a bit of panto action come this time of year. We got down to Nottingham Playhouse to find out what's new with the pussycat
Dick Whittington, Nottingham Playhouse

photo: Robert Day

The Playhouse pantos have become a staple part of the Nottingham Christmas experience. They eschew big names and saucy humour for performances very much focussed on the younger theatregoer. Or the young at heart, of course.

So how does this year’s fare shape up? Well, we’re in safe hands - Kenneth Alan Taylor’s hands to be precise. After decades appearing in the Playhouse pantomimes, he has it down to a fine art. Although he hung up the frocks and high heels a couple of years ago, his is the creative talent behind the script and direction.

We all know the story. A young man comes to London hoping for streets paved with gold. But those cobbles are overrun with King Rat’s army of four-legged critters. At first, Dick’s cat turns the table. But King Rat frames Dick for a vile crime and he is banished, doomed never to see his true love again. However, in something of a twist, Kenneth chooses to shipwreck his characters on the shores of Rio. You can see where this is going. A great excuse for some Carnival numbers. Cue the Carmen Miranda outfits and the maracas! 

This year sees familiar faces and new treading the boards. Returning audiences will recognise Tim Frater as Dick, Rebecca Little as a fairy with memory loss, and John Elkington and Anthony Hoggard as the grand dames. Meanwhile, Matthew Chase as Jack, Jasmine White as the cat, and Natalie Taylor Gray as Alice are the fresher faces. And Cat is definitely channelling the spirit of Catwoman! Lets not forget Kevin McGowan either, cutting a dastardly dash as King Rat, the boo-hiss villain.

Everyone pours their hearts into the story with such conviction that they bring it to life. There are plenty of jokes, old and new, and the audience was in stitches. John Elkington certainly knows how to deliver a punch line. Song and dance numbers come fast and furious, ranging from traditional tunes to current pop hits. The dance routines must take tremendous physical exertion, so kudos to the cast, young and not-so-young. They never lose their smiles or eye contact as they hammer out their steps.

The sets are as glittery as ever, like venturing into the pages of a book of fairytales. The dames’ frocks are works of art, funny yet striking at the same time. There was less slapstick this year, but plenty of ‘oh yes I will’ and ‘oh no you won’t’.

Indeed, all the Playhouse panto staples are there, including the audience singalong, the local jokes, and that precious moment the tiny tots are invited onstage. Their wide-eyed happiness is a joy to behold.

In conclusion, another belter of a pantomime, heaps of audience participation, riotous laughter, toe-tapping music and a warmth from the cast that is infectious. The kids will love it.           

The Nottingham Playhouse presents Dick Whittington from Friday 27 November to Saturday 16 January. For information and tickets call the Playhouse Box office on 0115 9419419 or book online.

Nottingham Playhouse website
Ian Douglas website