Dick Whittington in Norwich

Dick Whittington, Theatre Royal, Norwich until January 20

Ivan Howlett

Dick Whittington, Theatre Royal, Norwich until January 20

Of the traditional pantos only Dick Whittington is based on an English story, and a real-life character. He indeed became three times Lord Mayor of London. It's a lovely tale and the Theatre Royal has obviously gone that extra mile to make it a thoroughly enjoyable show.

It's been written and directed, as many of the Norwich theatre's shows have been by the very talented Richard Gauntlett. With producer Jane Walsh he's come up with a panto full of variety and spectacle, with a witty script not propped up with bad old gags and one which the performers seem really to enjoy.

We get, praise be, a fine live band, good music, and some wonderful dance numbers including a show-stopping tap routine. The dancers work with the cutest little rat dance chorus of children from Norwich's Central School of Dancing and Performing Arts, and a flown in Fairy Godmother (Tiffany Todd).

All Dick, a knee-booted female Principal Boy (Nicky Adams), wants to do is to come to London to make his fortune. He and the Cat (Georgina Todd) get a job at Alderman Fitzwarren's Emporium working alongside Idle Jack and Sarah the Cook, keeping an eye on things and trying to keep the rats down.

Most Read

However, he's not calculated for the evil King Rat's scheme to take over London.

There could be no better King Rat than the erstwhile Dr Who, Colin Baker, who emerges to hisses and boos from the bowels of the stage. As the genial but misguided Alderman Fitzwarren we have Terry Molloy, once the terrifying Davros from Dr Who and still the miserable Mike Tucker from the Archers years, but with a stage persona like neither of them.

Richard Gauntlett is a quite splendid pantomime dame as Sarah the Cook, a cheeky master of comic timing. Nick Staverson, as Idle Jack is another panto veteran and between them they carry the comedy, the slap, the slop and the audience interplay quite superbly .

When the singing competition between the two halves of the audience is declared, to groans, to be a draw, Sarah the Cook mischievously remarks she thought Norwich would be glad of a draw. Lovely.

The top scenes … the Kraken monster with huge tentacles that takes the Aldermen's ship to the deep, the ultra-violet light silhouette fish scene and the splendid mayor-making tableaux.

This Christmas show is hard to beat.

Ivan Howlett

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter