Having presented pantomimes for the past 14 years at the Towngate, some might accuse Simon Fielding of repeating himself. It’s an occupational hazard for any pantomime producer but while Fielding’s productions are traditional, they are anything but repetitive or mechanical.
Dick Whittington may be the least magical panto, so author Brad Fitt’s version concentrates on the love story between Alastair Hill’s heroic Dick and Madeleine Leslay’s gutsy, progressive Alice. It provides a solid centre for Fielding’s otherwise comical production, which also features an impressive ship-bound slop scene, an underwater UV-sequence and a line-up of trainee fairies who threaten to steal the show.
Fielding’s commitment to dance means that choreographer Aisling Duffy has her work cut out, devising everything from barnstorming routines for the whole company to an affecting dream-ballet featuring dance captain Shauna Olley and Mirlind Bega. Joshua Nkemdilim too, brings an almost breathtaking agility to the often overlooked role of the Cat.
As a performer, Fielding as Silly Billy matches the kids for energy but as ever, the icing on the cake is Sophie Ladds and her hilarious Slavic take on Queen Rat. Fielding may have a formula for his pantomimes but it’s progressive, inclusive and bursting with enthusiasm for the community that supports it.