Thursday, October 6, 2022

Review: Dick Whittington at the Thameside Theatre.

Review of Dick Whittington
Thameside Theatre

Screenshot 2019-12-11 at 15.13.28

FROM the moment, Fairy Bowbells and King Rat came out onto the stage at the Thameside Theatre, you know this was going to be a good one.

This is the fourteenth year that this reporter has been reviewing the pantomime at the Thameside. One of the things, you get to appreciate is that this is a real team effort. Sometimes, this praise is left to the last paragraph but we think it should be mentioned first, especially as the Company Stage Manager, Frankie McEwen is a local girl and still at college. Remarkable.

King Rat (Richard Burman) was very green and very evil but he struck an immediate rapport with the hundreds of Harris Academy Mayflower pupils who were in the audience. They booed from the very start and indeed were a key ingredient of what became a very enjoyable afternoon. This pantomime was a joy for them. There were heroes, there were villains, there was colour, lights and noise. There were jokes (mostly over their seven-year-old heads) but they loved it and that has to be a credit to a panto that pitched it so perfectly.

The panto also had the benefit of a very amiable Idle Jack (John Oakes) who infarct was far from idle. He was a blur of activity but his enthusiasm was infectious and again, he had great rapport with the children.

Just after he appeared in came the Dame, Sarah the Cook, played by Luke Coldham. Luke is a wonderful performer, whose classic dame is full of charm, cheer and comic timing. This was probably not the audience for him but Luke still stood out as the glue that kept the whole panto together.

And so we had the star, Love Island’s Wes Nelson. Firstly, Wes possesses a sweet soulful voice that he uses well. Secondly, he was a charming and affable Dick Whittington who was a key member of the ensemble. He looked at ease and the audience loved him. It was good to see that there was no gratuitous use of his honed physique. None at all…apart from the scene on a beach where he turns up in his beach shorts!

The songs were vibrant, from Go West to Don’t Stop. The director (Neil Couperthwaite) made great use of colour and light, which made this such an uplifting pantomime.

Credit must be given to the dancers (Martha, Sydney, Reggie and Jude) who moved beautifully in such a confined space.

We would also like to pay tribute to any pantomime that has a Latin joke….If you didn’t get it, Mea Culpa.

This was also a pantomime that had its moments of special effects. The audience loved the underwater sequence and there was also a scene (won’t give it away) involving Wes Nelson that had the young audience open mouthed in wonder.

This was such a warm-hearted pantomime. It would not be fair to describe it as an ensemble piece without mentioning other members of the cast who did more than play their part in making this such a wonderful show. King Rat was devilishly bad and had great rapport. Alderman Fitzwarren was played with gusto by Dominic McChesney.

Fairy Bowbells (Stacey Bland) had great presence and was an outstanding singer. The same could also be said of Alice Fitzwarren played by Alice Fillary. Last but not least, Tommy the Cat. The most gymnastics cat we have ever seen!

We heartily recommend Dick Whittington at the Thameside Theatre. It truly is all for the family but it also stays true to the traditional values of pantomime. A perfect show for the season.

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