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Dick Whittington review at Northcott Theatre, Exeter – ‘a delightful piece of Christmas theatre’

The cast of Dick Whittington at the Northcott Theatre, Exeter. Photo: Mark Dawson The cast of Dick Whittington at the Northcott Theatre, Exeter. Photo: Mark Dawson

Many of the best pantomimes add local quirks to the festival staples. Tony Lidington’s Dick Whittington for the Exeter Northcott follows this format, making the adventurous hero (Emily Essery) a Devon lad searching for a new job after his ‘grab a granny’ disco in Exeter Quay is condemned by Health and Safety inspectors.

The distinctly West Country notes can be seen elsewhere too. The London Docklands have a notably pirate-like look to them and the energetic Essery woos the aristocratic Alice Fitzwarren (Annabel Warwick) with an accent only found west of Bristol.

It’s the small details throughout that make this a delightful piece of Christmas theatre. Kelly Jago’s hand-drawn set designs have a faintly medieval aspect to them, before morphing into a tropical beach. Costumes are lushly designed, with highlights including Alice’s expansive bloomers.

Along with being lovingly crafted, this pantomime is consistently kind to its audience and is particularly suitable for younger children. Steve Bennett as Dame Sarah Suet banters with the crowd like a kind aunt, cracking jokes about Bake Off soggy bottoms and making vegetable puns.

There’s enough joy here that when the characters board the Megabus home from Plymouth, you wish they’d stay a little longer.

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Dick Whittington gets a West Country makeover in an endearingly old-fashioned, family-centric pantomime