Review: Dick Whittington
A dazzling wow-set greeting the audience showed Bristol that this pantomime meant business from the start. Qdos Entertainment has brought panto bang up-to-date, with impressive lighting, genuinely brilliant special effects, whilst retaining the best the traditional art form offers.
We still get our fairy tale sets, villager costumes and all the traditional characters are present and correct.
Dick Whittington itself is a somewhat problematic pantomime due to its lack of story. Dick arrives, finds a cat, is accused of stealing and goes on to fight King Rat to become Lord Mayor of London. Actually writing it down makes it sound more involved than it is in reality.
Although this family friendly gentle pantomime does its best, at times it feels like a variety show of acts stitched together. The pace feels a bit start stop as traditional pantomime conventions are shoe-horned in. It relies heavily on the ‘dick’ joke, which the audience mainly embraces. But, most humour sails over the heads of the youngsters. There are some solid moments in this show, particularly the one involving memory and limerick.
It was disappointing not to have the giant rat return at the end as part of the battle. Dick hadn’t really defeated the rats in London with this huge James Herbert monster lurking near the Thames. Heaven forfend we have a Dick Whittington 2: Rats Return.
Shane Richie was in his element as Dick Whittington. He’s a natural all-round brilliant entertainer. The show worked best in his partnership with Peter Piper as Captain Cockles. The pair have a natural comedy partnership and hogged the best moments of the show.
I was really hoping Jennie Dale was going to walk the plank as I was ready with my Swashbuckle Cheer – ah-harr! It’s clear that the effects team decided to tone down the bangs and flashes for once – something that many parents will thank them for – but the actor didn’t really get the panto clout she deserved.
For most of the show it felt like people forgot to partake in panto booing and cheering. There were no opportunities for the classic It’s Behind You and overall, the audience participation opportunities weren’t really there. They seem to grow less each year.
Christine Tucker as Alice Fitzwarren does a good job of making sure her character is not the usual drippy princess who needs rescuing. Blair Cameron’s Kitty Cat felt quite underused throughout the show. He’s clearly an excellent dancer which felt like a missed opportunity.
We had The Acromaniacs bringing tumbling and humour to an Act Two which managed to find a better pace. All the right elements for a brilliant pantomime were there, it just hasn’t quite gelled together in a perfect fit yet.
A very carefully written show manages to mainly stay clear of offence, though a joke about nappies almost tipped it. And although the second act was initially a parody of Love Island, it was still a Moroccan Island owned by the Sultan and still felt like unnecessary cultural appropriation.
If you are a panto fan who loves the annual outing at the Hippodrome, you won’t be disappointed, but I don’t think it will convert the doubters.
Dick Whittington is at The Bristol Hippodrome until Sunday 05 January 2020.
Signed Performance Wednesday 11 December 7pm
Captioned Performance Thursday 12 December 7pm
Relaxed Performance Thursday 02 January 2020 2pm
Audio Described Performance Friday 03 January 2020 2pm