Soap opera luminary Shane Richie has become synonymous with the pantomime Robin Hood in recent years. This Christmas, though, he has been transported from Sherwood Forest to old London town, starring as Dick Whittington in this spectacular Bristol Hippodrome version of the 2017 London Palladium show.
Richie, coming straight from a highly praised autumn tour in John Osborne’s The Entertainer, brings fresh impetus to the classic local-boy-makes-good adventure.
Once the obligatory “Dick” jokes are behind him, Richie has an easy-going rapport with the audience, and combines particularly well with Peter Piper’s chipper Captain Cockle, especially in a hilarious tongue-twister scene and a seabed version of A Partridge in a Pear Tree.
The Palladium heritage means that dazzling set pieces and stunning costumes are a given, and there is a welcome casting of CBeebies’ favourite Jennie Dale as a formidable Queen Rat, perhaps in response to complaints in the profession that strong roles for women still tend to be rather thin on the ground at panto time.
David O’Reilly (Sarah the Cook) and Christine Tucker (Alice Fitzwarren) have rather less to do, but come into their own in the big company numbers, especially the second half blockbuster, In the Navy.