Review/Gallery: Dick Whittington, New Wolsey Theatre until January 25

Sean Kingsley as Dame Sarah the Cook in Dick Whittington, this year's rock'n'roll pantomime at the N

Sean Kingsley as Dame Sarah the Cook in Dick Whittington, this year's rock'n'roll pantomime at the New Wolsey Theatre - Credit: Archant

Turn again Dick Whittington, turn and get rid of that twisted evil King Rat – oh, and while you’re at it, play some more classic rock’n’roll.

The New Wolsey have a dazzling reputation for their annual rock’n’roll pantomimes and well deserved it is too.

This year’s offering Dick Whittington delivers just the right amount of inspired lunacy neatly interwoven with some truly wonderful live music. The actors seamlessly move from actor to singer to musician without causing a hic-cup in the story. The trick which writer Peter Rowe and director Rob Salmon have turned into a fine art is never taking the audience out of the play.

With actors becoming musicians and then singers and then actors again, there is a danger that the audience could step out of the pantomime and just watch it as a fabulous rock’n’roll show but this never happens.

You are there in the sewers with Dick, Taffeta the Cat and Alice Fitzwarren battling the meglomaniac King Rat as he seeks to become Mayor of London.

The New Wolsey have being creating Christmas gold for 13 years now and this year proved to be as fun and beguiling as the first. It’s the nearest you can get to going to a party in a theatre.

This year with Sean Kingsley playing the Dame, Sarah the Cook, there were tarts and cherry-topped buns aplenty. He even held a masterchef-style baking course for lucky audience member Steve on the night I saw it.

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Although, Sean has been in two New Wolsey pantos before, he’s never played the Dame before and he really made the part his own with some great physical comedy and facial expressions. He also connected well with the audience and kept Steve involved for the whole show.

However, the show is an ensemble effort and as you would expect for a show requiring highly talented actor-musicians there wasn’t a weak link. But, for me the scene stealers were Dan De Cruz as King Rat, Cici Howells as a very physical, Emma Peel style, Taffeta the Cat and Tim Bonser as the batty Billy Bungalow.

It was also great to see New Wolsey regular Shirley Darroch back as Fairy Bowbells – although to hear her natural Scottish lilt replaced by some boisterous London lingo was quite a shock to the system.

Once again Peter Rowe’s musical knowledge is staggering as he integrated two dozen songs into the action matching mood and lyrics with effortless ease and in one case turning the classic Band of Gold into a Bag of Gold.

Among the songs making an appearance this year are The Byrds Turn, Turn Turn, Everything She Does is Magic, Tutti Fruiti, Gimme Me Some Lovin, Holding Out For a Hero & Deadringer for Love and for the fight between Taffeta and King Rat, Eye of the Tiger.

Elvis wannabe AJ Dean as Dick Whittington got to live out his rock’n’roll dream while Nicola Hawkins got to prove that Alice Fitzwarren can be the nice girl/damsel in distress and still have some spark about her.

An evening of marvellous music and mayhem which will have audiences coming back for more. Theatrical gold.

Andrew Clarke

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