This production of Dick Whittington is the best pantomime performed at the Bristol Hippodrome for quite a while. Amongst the usual glitter-fest and panto traditions, we have a great cast of understated stars and strong female leads.
It was a traditional telling of Dick Whittington and his cat – the unlikely rags to riches story featuring love, adventure and triumph over a villainous baddie.
Dick Whittington was played by the ever charming Ben Faulks – creator and star of CBeebies TV character Mr Bloom. His innocent and friendly demeanour gave us a great male lead who was not in the least irritating, exceptionally unusual for both a children’s household name and TV actor in panto.
Topping the cast billing is Ashleigh And Pudsey, a Britain’s Got Talent winner with actual talent.
The dancing dog-trick duo perform one main, highly impressive routine during the show, then for Ashleigh as Alice Fitzwarren, it’s all about the love with Dick.
While Ashleigh doesn’t have that polished performance of stage school grads, it is advantageous here. She has a pleasing voice and gives a natural, unpretentious performance that was thoroughly enjoyable. The clever casting with Ben Faulks made them well-matched and complimentary to each other’s performances.
This pantomime is all about the ladies. As well as top billing going to Ashleigh, we have vocal belter Brenda Edwards – prominent previous X-Factor contestant – as Fairy Bowbells playing opposite sassy and conniving Queen Rat – Lara Denning.
Even Dick’s rat-kicking feline Tommy, is played by dancer Hayley Jane Goold.
Under the watchful eye of Eric Potts, the show’s writer, director and panto dame, we have all the best traditions of pantomime, with modern elements to keep the show diverse enough for contemporary audiences.
There was a breathtakingly beautiful underwater scene, when the cast are plunged into the sea and must swim to the surface.
This deftly moves into some snappy 3D animation causing the audience to leap out of their seats as sea creatures burst through the screen towards them.
There is a smattering of mild adult humour throughout, which sails clearly above the heads of younger audience members
Pantomime regular Andy Ford is back as local fool Idle Jack. Knowing exactly how to get the laughs, Andy Ford has become a solid and reliable tradition at the Bristol Hippodrome each year.
This year First Family Entertainment got it spot on in Bristol with their perfect pantomime production to kick-start the official Christmas Countdown.
Dick Whittington is at the Bristol Hippodrome Theatre until Sunday 04 January 2015.