Though Dick Whittington, the rags to riches tale of a country boy, is energetically directed by Karen Simpson at Britain’s oldest surviving Georgian playhouse, it’s lacking in local reference and colour and ends up feeling rather formulaic.
The production lands us in London straight away. The audience are only briefly introduced to Dick (Jessica Spalis) before he starts his rat catching. It takes the arrival of his mother, Winona Whittington (Chris Clarkson), to bring this panto to life. Clarkson is a brassy and bawdy dame and he rapidly becomes the centre of the show in the first half. As Nibbles, the assistant to Sir Reginald Rat Fiend, Nerine Skinner is also outstanding. She create a clearly defined comic character; a strong presence with superb timing.
Drew Baumohl’s sound design is bursting with well known pop tunes, while Dawn Allsopp’s set design moves from a traditional cartoonish back drop of London to Love Island via a simple but impressive ship design.
With some strongly choreographed numbers by Julia Cave, the second half packs much more of a punch with the ensemble numbers, a florescent seabed and a nicely realised West Side Story-style number all hitting the spot.
This is traditional pantomime with a modern feel, and it’s fun and engaging. But its biggest laughs come from innuendo, and the balance of the writing feels slightly off.