It’s that time of year again. Oh no it isn’t! Oh yes it is! The great British tradition of pantomime, with all of its cockle-warming innuendo, is back and more important than ever, as we crawl out of these crazy times. As a Vauxhall local and Above The Stag stalwart, I ensure to never miss this much loved venue’s pantomimes as the sell-out smashes never disappoint and have become legendary on the south London gay scene. This new incarnation of London’s infamous Dick is a throbbing and titillating treat.
Briefly seen last year in an acclaimed, Covid-curtailed (boooooo!) run, Dick Whittington: A New Dick in Town! is back, vaccinated, single and looking to mingle in the big smoke. Penned by writing juggernauts Jon Bradfield and Martin Hooper, this year’s production is unrestrained, with so many witty quips, hilarious one-liners and catchy tunes it’s enough to make you gag. This is the twelfth pantomime the writing duo have written for this iconic LGBTQIA+ venue, and Dick sees them returning to the subject of the very first panto they did here. From over a decade of writing these filthy festive gems, Bradfield and Harper’s humour is on pointe throughout with a slick and savage script that cuts like a drag queen’s forked tongue and takes no prisoners (here’s looking at you Prince Andrew!). From funeral parlours to sewers, and the cobbles of the East End to a tropical island far, far away, the plot is all over the place, but it’s panto darling, so be warned if you dare not keep up!
Jonny Peyton-Hill as the gay country lad Dick, in search of men and money, is a delicious delight. Imagine a horny and hyperactive CBeebies presenter, who’s had no sleep for two days, and that’s Peyton-Hill’s wide-eyed and overly excited Dick, rising to the occasion gloriously. Keanu Adolphus Johnson as Dick’s equally horny love interest Alex, is hilarious and enthralling from the off. He’s also rather sexy and there were times I’m sure we were all hoping he was indeed behind us. Nikki Biddington as evil Queen Rat (boo!) is a vile and vindictive beast, with a maddened over-the-top cackle that made me grin throughout. Bradley Walwyn as funeral baron Fitzwarren seemed a bit weak at first, but he really came into his own in Act Two as the twin brothers. His face off with himself was comedy gold. It’s audience favourite Matthew Baldwin as panto dame, Sarah Fitzwarren, who really stole the show. Baldwin’s sex-starved and impassioned Sarah, who works hard to “put the fun into funerals”, is the glue that holds this tight ensemble together. His comic timing is on high-heeled pointe with a fearsomely funny characterisation that was a laugh out loud joy to watch. I applaud this cast for not corpsing once, while we all fell to the floor in fits of laughter and small puddles of wee.
Acclaimed Director Andrew Beckett is back at the glittery helm this year with Dick Whittington: A New Dick in Town! being his tenth panto for this cherished venue. The direction is fun and Beckett has the cast, and audience, in his well-lubed grip, although I did find the pace of Act One a little slow. It’s Act Two where, under the watchful eye of Beckett, ably assisted by musical direction from Aaron Clingham and Carole Todd’s choreography, that this show drops her garter belts and really comes into her own. It’s a rambunctious riot and any show that asks me to shout out “Awrite me old f*ckers?” at the cast gets my vote any day.
As most south London gays know, Dick is where it’s at, so make sure to buy your ticket or at least get his number darling!
Written by: Jon Bradfield and Martin Hooper
Directed by: Andrew Beckett
Musical Direction: Aaron Clingham
Choreography: Carole Todd
Set Designer: David Shields
Costumes: Sandy Lloyd and Robert Draper
Dick Whittington: A New Dick in Town! plays at Above The stag until 16 January. Further information and bookings via the below link.