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Dick Whittington - Theatre Review

Nottingham Theatre Royal have delivered once again with the uproarious take on ‘Dick Whittington’! As the saying goes “There’s nothing quite like panto,” and this one offered a dazzling mix of laughter, extravagant sets, and hilarious parody songs.  

I was ready to embark on the classic adventure of Dick Whittington as he sets out to conquer the bustling city of London, facing off against the villainous Queen Rat and her mischievous rodent army. With his trust cat by his side and a lively ensemble of characters, Dick navigates each challenge with quick wit and irresistible charm, making this tale an absolute delight. But let us not forget the hallmark of any great pantomime - when things go wrong, they go spectacularly WRONG. 


Shane Richie shines as the undeniable star in the role of Dick, stealing the spotlight as though the show was built around him. With constant improvisations, engaging with the audience and delivering the show’s best lines, Richie emerge as the comedic linchpin. The performance is essentially a Shane Richie stand-up special woven into a somewhat feeble plot told by the remaining cast members. His charm, ability to cater to both adults and children, and evident love for his fellow performers creates an immensely enjoyable world on the stage.  


Dr Ranj, portraying ‘The Spirit of Bow Bells,’ delivers a wonderful performance, although the decision to adopt a ‘generic panto voice’ rather than his recognisable tone remains puzzling. Despite the character’s camp costume and glittery makeup, the purpose of the role is not entirely clear. Iain Stuart Robertson donned the essential robes of the Dame, with a delightful performance throughout, complete with outrageous costumes, he is climbing the ranks to become panto royalty. Emily Beth Harrington, playing Alice, emerges as the pantomime’s heroine, existing in the show with her simple character, and shining during the musical numbers. 


The standout performer without a doubt is Kenan-Lewis Smith, who played the cat, whose physicality and movement rival that of Mr Mistoffelees in the Lloyd Webber Musical. Anne Smith played the wicked Rodent Queen, and voiced the part wickedly, however her physical performance left a lot to be desired. As the Baddie there was a lot of booing and hissing coming her way, but she did not seem to acknowledge the audience were there and would often continue to recite her lines inaudibly as though this was a rehearsal. I also wish she would leave the tail alone. 


Pantomimes are meant to be outrageous, and in this regard, the Theatre Royal’s production does not disappoint. The set, costume and props team go all out, delivering jaw-dropping spectacles. In the first act, a giant mechanical rat with glowing red eyes graces the stage, an impressive feat that, unfortunately, fades into oblivion without ever being used or mentioned again, some would call it a waste of money. Later, Dick manoeuvres a flying red London bus that soars into the audience, bringing the Eastenders star within spitting distance. While the flying bus illusion is exhilarating, it was not needed, but it was a bit of fun, and if the theatre had the mechanism, why not use it.  


The one major letdown comes from the narrative disruptions, making it challenging to follow the storyline. With this being my first experience of Dick (excuse you!), I still do not know what happened. The incorporation of numerous well-known pantomime tropes - dance-offs, tongue twisters and the 12 days of Christmas - feels unnecessary and was not particularly entertaining, they also occupied space where the story should have been told. 


A special mention is due to the sound, lighting, and pyrotechnics team, whose stellar work with sound effects, dramatic lighting, and a plethora of flashes, bangs, and pops ensures a consistently high excitement factor. However, I cannot help but wonder how a ‘relaxed’ performance would fate, as stripping away these elements might leave little of the show intact.  


In conclusion, Nottingham’s ‘Dick Whittington’ emerges as a creative adaptation that guarantees smiles all around. Despite its lack of a coherent plot, the show is uplifting and well presented.  


Dick Whittington plays at the Nottingham Theatre Royal until Sunday 14th January 2024. 



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