Dick Whittington review at the Coliseum, Oldham – ‘perfectly pitched panto’

Nina Shadi as Dick Whittington at Oldham Coliseum. Photo: Joel C Fildes Nina Shadi as Dick Whittington at Oldham Coliseum. Photo: Joel C Fildes

The Coliseum’s annual yuletide offering follows a now very well-established formula both on stage and off. Traditionally opening early in the festive season, featuring the same creative team – led by artistic director Kevin Shaw and co-writer Fine Time Fontayne – and eschewing big name bookings for largely the same repertory of Coliseum regulars, it shouldn’t really throw up much in the way of surprises.

And yet this year’s production manages to deliver pretty much a perfectly pitched trad panto experience while adding just enough curveballs to the mix. Some of the modern touches – such as having Nina Shadi’s otherwise spot-on Dick serenading his cat with Ed Sheeran’s overtly sexual Shape of You and a joltingly brutal level of slapstick violence worthy of The Simpsons’ Itchy and Scratchy – strike the wrong note.

But even the most well-worn comic set-pieces are given a fresh spin. A messy cooking scene sees Fontayne’s relaxed and assured dame Saucy Sarah and Richard J Fletcher’s entertainingly physical Silly Billy following instructions from an Alexa-like voice control unit.

Elsewhere, Simeon Truby’s arresting King Rat delivers a wittily original spin on Bat Out of Hell, one of many big ensemble musical numbers effectively marshalled by Shaw and choreographer Beverley Norris-Edmunds.

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Well-paced, top-drawer traditional panto with just enough successful modern touches