Review: Dick Whittington, by Fine-Time Fontayne and Daniel Buckroyd, Colchester Mercury, until January 8 2017

Ignatius Anthony as Ratty King in the Colchester Mercury's pantomime Dick Whittington

Ignatius Anthony as Ratty King in the Colchester Mercury's pantomime Dick Whittington - Credit: Archant

The Colchester Mercury has a well deserved reputation for staging some of the most lavish traditional pantomimes in East Anglia.

Antony Stuart-Hicks as Sarah the Cook in the Colchester Mercury's pantomime Dick Whittington

Antony Stuart-Hicks as Sarah the Cook in the Colchester Mercury's pantomime Dick Whittington - Credit: Archant

With a company built around tried and trusted panto veterans such as Ignatius Anthony, Dale Superville and Antony Stuart-Hicks, it is no wonder that this year’s Dick Whittington is a wonderful showcase for the subversive joys of Christmas theatre.

This year’s panto has a very timely feel to it, revolving around elections and voting for new Mayors. Ignatius Anthony as the nefarious Ratty King would appear to have the election all sewn up. He’s the only candidate and he’s in league with the rats to turn London into a sewer once he is in charge. No-one enjoys being booed quite as much as Ignatius Anthony.

Thankfully Fairy Bow-Bells (Barbara Hockaday) has the measure of him and lures the kind-hearted Dick Whittington (Glenn Adamson) to town and as soon as he befriends the wily cat Tomisina (Gracie Lai) he has the ultimate weapon for defeating Ratty King and his rodent hordes.

But, in a Mercury panto, the plot sometimes takes a back seat to the glorious mayhem being created by those who, in any other play, would be mistaken for being supporting cast.

Glenn Adamson as Dick Whittingtonand Gracie Lai as Tomasina in the Colchester Mercury's pantomime D

Glenn Adamson as Dick Whittingtonand Gracie Lai as Tomasina in the Colchester Mercury's pantomime Dick Whittington - Credit: Archant


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Panto Dame Sarah the Cook (Antony Stuart-Hicks) and Idle Jack (Dale Superville) command the stage and work brilliantly well together. They certainly know how to get the audience going. The performance I witnessed came close to producing the noise levels generated by screaming fans at a Beatles concert.

This pair put the audience at the heart of the show. It’s great to witness two actors so at home with their material and in command of their craft. Their routines appear to be inventive and spontaneous but I am sure that they are rehearsed to the second. But, they are wise to leave room to respond to the odd heckle or an inspired call-out from the audience.

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Unusually for Dick Whittington, whose story usually focuses on ridding the London streets of rats, seeking his fortune and winning the hand of Alice Fitzwarren, most of the second half of the show is set aboard ship and ends up in Morocco.

Glenn Adamson and Gracie Lai make a suitably engaging pair of heroes who manage to cleverly avoid being upstaged by some of the best comic actors in the business.

Dale Superville as Idle Jack in the Colchester Mercury's pantomime Dick Whittington

Dale Superville as Idle Jack in the Colchester Mercury's pantomime Dick Whittington - Credit: Archant

The sets and costumes are well realised by production designer David Shields and the direction by Daniel Buckroyd is packed full of comic mischief and keeps the show moving forward at a breathless pace.

This is a show that honours tradition but is not afraid to reinvent things for modern audiences. There’s plenty of laughs, plenty of songs and plenty of audience participation – particularly if Sarah the Cook takes a shine to you. This is a show that will delight everyone from eight to 80.

Andrew Clarke

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