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Dick Whittington review at Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford – ‘rollicking traditional panto’

Judy Cornwell and Georgie Leatherland in Dick Whittington at Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford. Photo: Bryan Allman Judy Cornwell and Georgie Leatherland in Dick Whittington at Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford. Photo: Bryan Allman

Here’s a clever invention: a ratnav. This gilded box both susses out vermin and bursts into song at the least hint: say “hello” and you invoke Lionel Richie.

Jamie Smith’s script is a mixture of originality, weary double entendres – especially (surprise!) “dick” and “pussy” – and groan-worthy puns, but he generally focuses on child rather than adult taste. He directs at a tremendous lick and the cast are clearly having fun. Some of the wild, energetic slapstick is familiar to the audience: when the giant water pistols came out, umbrellas were already up. An outsider feels like a stranger at a family party.

Peter Gordon, host of local breakfast radio and here for the twelfth year, is Sarah the Cook in some fabulous wigs, one topped with a puce octopus. Kit Hesketh-Harvey, King Rat, returns as a hissable villain and Jamie Brook as Idle Jack connects warmly with the children. Judy Cornwell makes a glittering if grounded, no-nonsense Fairy Bowbells, while Kane Verrall’s attractive Dick is stronger on comedy than voice.

As Alice, Natalie Turner sings charmingly and Georgie Leatherland is a lithe Tommy the Cat. Nick Barclay doubles as Alderman Fitzwarren and a surprisingly Geordie Sultan in an unapologetically non-PC Morocco. The costumes are gorgeous, the live band terrific and the ensemble – local schoolkids and students – exceptionally well-drilled. In short: a rollicking traditional panto.

Verdict
Traditional, inventive, laugh-along panto featuring local talent, fun for children and adults
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