Star-studded Dick Whittington rings in the Christmas season at New Wimbledon Theatre – SWL reviews

Dick Whittington at the New Wimbledon Theatre is a saucy, colourful, topical, joke-filled, seasonal treat in the best traditions of this peculiarly British theatrical genre.

Director Ian Talbot and writer Eric Potts present a fairly traditional pantomime take on the story of Dick Whittington and his Cat.

Former S Club Junior Aaron Renfree’s slick choreography and some unexpected song choices give the production its modern edge.

The plot centres around a poverty-stricken lad who travels to London with his cat to seek fame and fortune having been told ‘the streets are paved with gold’.

It is a popular re-telling of the folklore surrounding real-life Lord Mayor of London, Richard Whittington.

Dick, his cat, and the audience are taken on an adventure to London, through a sea voyage and shipwreck, to a Moroccan sultan’s court, and back to London.

Yes it’s implausible – but that’s panto for you and it’s all just a wonderful excuse for lavish sets, outrageous costumes, and all round silliness.

Renowned choreographer and former Strictly Come Dancing judge Arlene Phillips makes her glittering pantomime debut in the role of Fairy Bowbells.

This is typically a role filled by a star name and this seemingly ageless star gets the audience on their feet in the second act, putting us through our dance paces.

Matthew Kelly, in the dame role of Sarah the Cook, is arguably still best known by many for presenting Stars in Their Eyes.

He has in recent years though begun to be recognised for the range of his acting roles.

He is also an experienced pantomime performer – previously appearing in Wimbledon as the Ugly Sister in Cinderella and Widow Twankey in Aladdin – and it shows.

He provides much of the traditional comedic filth and risqué jokes that fly over the heads of children and innocent alike but which delight the rest of us.

But the real stand out of this production is award-winning comedian Tim Vine in the role of Idle Jack.

He is the former world record-holder for the most jokes told in an hour (499) and he makes great use of his skill for scatter-gun jokes, ad-lib and working an audience.

But it’s not all about the star names in this talented ensemble cast.

Sam Hallion as Dick Whittington and Grace Chapman as his love interest Alice Fitzwarren are at their best and most convincing in the musical numbers.

Musical veteran Paul Baker performs the dual roles of Alderman Fitzwarren and the Sultan but still somehow feels underused.

Children though will love Indi-Jay Cammish as Dick’s faithful cat Tommy and boo on cue every appearance of Matt Harrop’s villainous King Rat.

There’s something for everybody in this family favourite pantomime that provides a delightful two-hour escape from London’s cold weather and gloomy world news.

Dick Whittington runs at the New Wimbledon Theatre until Sunday 15 January 2017. For more information and tickets, click here.

Featured image courtesy of Darren Bell, with thanks

Related Articles