This year’s Hackney Empire panto – written and directed by local favourite Susie McKenna – is served with a twist. The 14th century is swapped for a post-war England setting, and Dick Whittington and his cat have just arrived in London from Jamaica on the Empire Windrush in search of a better life.
Fresh from his role in Hamilton, Tarinn Callender gives an ebullient performance as Dick. His sidekick, Uncle Vincent the Cat, is an outrageously funny Kat B. Clive Rowe makes his 13th appearance at Hackney Empire as Sarah the Cook and, be it sauntering into the audience to flirt with the front row, or belting out a banger, he is awesome.
The wicked Queen Rat is played by the devilishly good Annette McLaughlin. But it’s Jemma Geanaus who steals the show as Maia the Mermaid; she floats in on a wave and seduces with her dulcet tones.
McKenna’s 21st panto for Hackney Empire has it all: a star-studded cast, an incredible live band, sensational costumes (brava, Lotte Collett), and plenty of chutzpah. It’s got jokes – all the jokes – and it’s wrapped up with a message of hope and kindness. In short, it’s everything you need right now.