Dick Whittington and His Cat review at Everyman Theatre, Cheltenham – ‘circus capers’

The cast of Dick Whittington at the Everyman Theatre, Cheltenham The cast of Dick Whittington at the Everyman Theatre, Cheltenham

Professional circus clown Tweedy is in his pomp in his home town pantomime at Cheltenham’s Everyman Theatre. It’s well worth arriving 15 minutes early just to catch his zany pre-curtain auditorium antics, while his aerial skills and frenetic humour captivate young and old.

There is a comfortably familiar feel to the top-of-the-range production standards, with writer/director Phil Clark making sure his 11th successive Cheltenham panto sticks strictly to the rags-to-riches storyline.

Mark Roper`s Sarah the Cook is a less flamboyant dame than usual, while Andrew Westfield`s fiendish King Rat is comprehensively vanquished by newcomer Ben Goffe`s big-hearted Tommy the Cat.

Molly McGuire, in the title role, and Ruth Betteridge (Alice Fitzwarren), can both belt out a song, so the only disappointment is that there is no original music. The rather tired songbook relies entirely on the likes of Half A Sixpence, Barnum, HMS Pinafore and Fame.

Everyman returner Lynette Clarke`s jovial Fairy Bow Bells is a reassuring antidote to a sizeable horde of rats, and another bonus is the skill of all the cast in ensuring that familiar pantomime ingredients, such as the Bake Off scene in a pitching-and-tossing ship`s kitchen, are not swamped by Tweedy`s circus capers. The regular design team of Phil R Daniels and Charles Cusick Smith are also at their best on board ship with brand new sets and costumes.

Tweedy`s circus prowess lights up an unashamedly traditional version of the story of a Gloucestershire lad made good