You can’t beat a good panto at Christmas, and this one is a cracker all right!
Shane Richie of East Enders is the principal boy in more ways than one, setting up a great rapport with the audience and jollying the plot along nicely. We were delighted to accept his invitation to join in with singing get-on-your-feet numbers like I’m A Believer. The plot itself varies tradition with innovation, as Dick and his energetic Cat battle against Queen Rat and her myrmidons not only in mediaeval London, but out at sea, and even on the sea-bed when their ship is sunk. A ship needs a captain, and the old sea-dog Captain Cockles fits the bill. He is played by Peter Piper, and if you think he knows how to “pick a peck of pickled pepper”, you should hear him sparring with Dick and the cook (who is the traditionally none-too-gorgeous pantomime dame) over the old word-teaser “she sells sea shells on the sea shore”, which gets increasingly long and complicated, and gives ample opportunity for the mispronunciation of “sits”.
Yes, there is plenty of old-fashioned smut and innuendo in this seasonal farrago, as befits a family show, along with topical allusions. Bang up to date was the query whether cheese and biscuits constitute a party. More intricate word play between Dick and the Captain was displayed in a conversation consisting entirely of them miming snatches from well-known pop songs, while sight gags aplenty were enjoyed by adults just as much as the children. In one of them, Dick has to run the gauntlet of an array of moving implements which will hit him unless he is quick enough to avoid them. Much to the children’s delight, he doesn’t.
All in all, the multifarious costumes, the ingenious sets, the songs and dances, and the special effects (including a motor bike that flies) make for an evening of simple pleasure, much needed in these dolorous times.
- Written by Alan McHugh
- Director : Ian Talbot
- Choreographer : Aaron Renfree
- Photographer: Craig Sugden
- Starring : Shane Richie, Peter Piper and Hiba Elchikhe
- New Wimbledon Theatre, London
- Until: 2nd January 2022
- Running time : 2 hours, including Interval