Pros: A rip–roaring riot of an evening
Cons: The seating was a little uncomfortable.
The panto of Dick Whittington and his Cat is a classic that chronicles the mythic story of Richard Whittington; a real life London Mayor (c. 1354–1423). It’s a tale of his beginnings, as a lowly chancer looking to make a name for himself, to his inevitable rise to the top in London town. London is beautifully rendered and acts as a supporting character (as well as the spirit of London played by Nicole Davis) in this production. This is entirely relevant too, given that the show takes place in Wilton’s Music Hall, the only surviving Victorian music hall left in London. The atmosphere of the old building really does add an extra bit of context to the production, making it feel that bit more special.
The show itself was written by, and stars Roy Hudd (as the Dame.) Hudd manages to get a real sense of simplicity and grounding to the production; nothing is too ridiculous or over the top. Yet the economical script is energetic, which results in a great reaction from the audience . Here lies the strength of the production, it felt more like a collaboration, we were all in-on-it, everyone was slickly catered for.
The cast was very diverse. I would guess the age range started at around 5 years old right up to Mr Hudd at 79. Each one of them seemed to be having a great time on stage. Panto is all about the facial expressions and there were so many to choose from in this production. Gareth Davies was fantastic as Ronaldo Ratface, the lead villain. Dressed to look like Slash from Guns ‘n’ Roses, he had a jaunty voice more than reminiscent of Russell Brand. In fact he was so good, there was a part of me that would have happily seen him succeed in his dastardly plan! Simon Burbage was also brilliant as the bumbling, slapstick Jack, bouncing around the stage with the frenetic energy of Lee Evans.
I did feel that the part of Dick Whittington seemed lacking, he seemed to get lost in the shuffle with all the other stronger characters. He appeared more like a middling idiot who got lucky, rather than someone with sufficient heart and gusto to be London Mayor. Also, unfortunately the seating was quite uncomfortable. We were so crammed together that everyone was shifting constantly to find some relief.
Pantomimes are a strange beast. Attempting to explain them to the uninitiated is pretty much impossible. However, this show was exactly what a panto should be. It was a shining example to really show off the form, but was also somewhat radical and unique in a lot of ways. It didn’t rely too heavily on the usual conventions and felt fresh. This was definitely a big festive triumph for Wilton’s Music Hall.
Author: Roy Hudd
Director: Debbie Flitcroft
Designer: Mark Hinton
Booking until: 31st December
Box Office: 02077022789
Booking link: https://www.wiltons.org.uk/whatson/57-dick-whittington-his-cat