Muddy writer Zoe Dudgeon found her inner child at Yvonne Arnaud's Dick Whittington festive and frivolous panto.
I admit it – it’s been a while since I have been to a good old-fashioned pantomime. However, I think I was genuinely more excited than the children swarming around me when I took my seat at the Yvonne Arnaud theatre to see Dick Whittington.
The show opened with a punchy montage of song and dance and we were immediately transported to olden day London – where the streets were paved with gold! The team at the Yvonne Arnaud have done a stellar job at creating a production that engages the whole family. A perfect blend of dancing, singing and general shenanigans, paired with plenty of innuendo and Brexit banter. Jamie Brook as Idle Jack and Eagle Radio’s PG as Sarah the Cook were a fantastic comedy duo with slapstick and puns galore. Renditions such as:
“We’re having a Brexit Christmas dinner this year.”
To which we pondered: “What’s the difference between that and a normal Christmas dinner?”
And were rewarded with the answer: “It’s the same – but without the Brussels.”
King Rat (played by Kit Hesketh-Harvey) and his crew of rat children were a menacing force to be reckoned with. Kit had all the charisma and twisted personality to make a commanding King Rat. He bantered well with the audience and was the villain we all loved to hate. Idle Jack’s Rat-nav was a great trope to poke fun at our modern day dependency on technology. The device warned the characters when rats were in the vicinity. It also doubled as a hyped up dukebox which Idle Jack had a lot of fun mischievously winding up his mother with!
A nod must be given to Georgie Leatherland’s performance as Tommy the Cat – her movement was extremely graceful and you could feel her personality bubbling through. Kane Verrall was an engaged Dick and Nick Barclay kept us laughing as Alderman Fitzwarren.
The set itself was also amazing – moving between the streets of London where the shops were named rather wittily to the Fitwarren store which contained lots of interesting jars of funny substances to aboard the Boaty McBoat Face and even the Sultan of Morocco’s dungeon.
The performance of the ‘Twelve Days of Christmas’ was a definite highlight – with Idle Jack getting approximately a million cream pies to the face. The actors were practically sliding around on stage amongst the chaos which pinnacled when a prop caught on a light and almost fused the whole set! It was well saved by the tremendous cast. Several of them ended up running into the audience and spraying us all with water pistols (I think the children enjoyed that more than I did).
One of my friends had never been to an English pantomime before! Some of the nuances had to be explained to her – why did everyone get so excited when a wooden bench appeared and some of the actors begun singing ‘Always Look on the Bright Side of Life’? It was hilarious to take a step back from the traditions I grew up with, which are unquestionably intuitive, and actually think about how mad some of them are! Why do we get so overexcited about booing baddies, shouting out “he’s behind you” and “oh no he didn’t”, and watching people fall about on stage? I think it’s because Christmas (or the silly season) is a chance to let your hair down and bring out your inner child. So sit back, relax and let the Yvonne Arnaud take you away with some festive frivolities!