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Dick Whittington review at Chester’s Forum Studio – ‘cheap and cheerful’

Eliza Hewitt-Jones in Dick Whittington at the Forum Studio Theatre, Chester. Photo: Mark Carline Eliza Hewitt-Jones in Dick Whittington at the Forum Studio Theatre, Chester. Photo: Mark Carline

On first impressions, the cheap and cheerful nature of this show from Tip Top Productions, with its bargain-bucket set and snug performing area, puts you in mind of a cut-price holiday camp show. But the performances and level of energy the cast manage to whip up in the room put it in a much higher league.

There are several references in the script to the writing being poor. In truth, Peter Swingler’s script is rather bog-standard, with jokes as old as Methuselah and a shopworn plot and routines lifted wholesale from the big traditional panto playbook. Apart from the clanging references to Twitter and Instagram and rather too salty nature of some of the lines of consummate dame Kevin Dewsbury as Sarah the Cook, it works perfectly well as a vehicle for the usual panto shenanigans. The cast take every opportunity to interact with a very vocal, kiddie-filled crowd.

A second interval is unnecessary and some of the ultra-contemporary song choices – not to mention the singing ability of the cast – are questionable. But the ensemble as a whole, led by Taran Knight’s likeable Idle Jack, Julie Blagrove’s strikingly styled Fairy Bowbell and a winningly played Tommy the Cat in the shape of Andrew Rawlinson-Heath, are strong enough to paper over these shortcomings.

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Micro-budgeted but maxi-hearted, this modest production provides kids with a raucously fun and friendly introduction to the joys of live theatre