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Dick Whittington at Mercury Theatre, Colchester – ‘riotous and crisply executed’

Grace Eccle, Glenn Adamson and Gracie Lai. Photo: Pamela Raith Photography

There is no denying that Daniel Buckroyd’s take on the perennial tale of Dick Whittington feels a little overstuffed. With co-writer Fine Time Fontayne, he has packed his riotous panto full of slapstick set pieces, shout outs, several sharks and a troupe of skanking rats. Despite this – and several lengthy conversations about cake – this is a crisply executed production.

A relative newcomer to the experienced ensemble cast, Glenn Adamson is all bright-eyed innocence as the titular Dick, grinning through the racy innuendo supplied by Antony Stuart-Hicks’ quarrelsome dame, Suet. The show has a timely, superlative villain in Ignatius Anthony’s Ratty King, an unscrupulous entrepreneur with political ambitions. Never breaking character, he brags, snarls and snipes with gusto, relishing the raucous booing he elicits. Meanwhile, Mercury panto regular Dale Superville throws out a continual stream of ad-libs, injecting some palpable anarchy – and undisguised corpsing – into proceedings.

David Shield’s fantastic design is vividly coloured and boldly cartoonish, full of lovingly rendered details. The windows of London’s looming tenements glow with warm light, while ships’ masts cluster in the background. As the story becomes increasingly elaborate, the scene shifts to a beautifully realised galleon pitching in the waves, then to a glittery Moroccan palace. An unexpected underwater sequence is brief but breathtaking, lit in luminous ultra violet.

The upbeat score, arranged by Richard Reeday, features reworked pop songs melded into original medleys, at once infectious and instantly recognisable. It is a fitting soundtrack for a production so thoroughly crammed with energy and ideas.

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Verdict
Excessive, traditional panto is gorgeously designed and assuredly delivered
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