THEATRE ROYAL PLYMOUTH – 12 JANUARY 2019
RUNNING TIME 2 HOURS – 1 interval
Theatre Royal Plymouth Box Office – 01752 267222
REVIEW – CORMAC RICHARDS – 18 DECEMBER 2018
And so, to my final review of the year and, appropriately, it is a pantomime. QDOS Entertainment is the world’s largest producer of pantomimes in the World and they have a reputation for the spectacular and the hilarious. With 32 productions on the road each year, the expectations of high-quality entertainment are high. And they deliver.
From the moment you enter the auditorium at the Theatre Royal Plymouth you are greeted by a stunning front of stage cloth – DICK WHITTING TON in red and gold sparkling and shimmering. There is a feeling already that you are in safe hands.
The production values of these shows are impressive. The many cloths and additional sets are so colourful and they are lit quite brilliantly – it is an assault on the eyes. Add to that the tremendous costumes and you have inventive and stylish designs providing the perfect back drop for a fast-paced show.
The stars are John Partridge (late of ‘Eastenders’) who gives us a black leather-clad villain in King Rat. He hams and camps it up something appalling, but it is spot on. Although his initial speech was very difficult to hear, the sound levels sorted themselves out and he belted out his songs with panache. Samatha Womack (also well known for her time in Walford Square) is an attractive Spirit of Bow Bells, she doesn’t have a great deal to do, but what she does is fine. Nigel Ellacott is a very experienced and first-class Felicity Fitzwarren, the Dame. He has an array of amazing costumes and a striptease routine that went down extremely well. He worked very well with Andy Ford -another very experienced performer – who, as Idle Jack provides the link man act of the show. Ford is a well-known comic and he uses all his skills and energy to deliver terrible jokes well and engages with the audience as well as anyone could.
The script by Alan McHugh and Jonathan Kiley is tight, well-paced and has something for everyone. It has a sprinkling of innuendo – this panto always garners a big handful of ‘Dick’ jokes – and is on the money with length. I laughed a lot and that is as much to do with the delivery as anything else and with experienced actors it is also what is expected. Inventive business along the way adds to the merriment. Some rehearsed ‘mistakes’ were a little obvious to me, but they were still enjoyable.
The title role was taken on by the understudy for this performance and, in front of the Press, Alex Hetherington gave an excellent account of himself. He was absolutely bang on in his delivery, singing and confidence as well as being a very likeable hero. It was right and proper for him to get a special thanks at the final curtain for moving up from the Ensemble to centre stage for the night. His sidekick, Tomtom the Tomcat, was nicely played by Ryan Kayode and Daisy Wells was a perfect match for Dick, as Alice. A nice cameo as Sultan Vinegar (great name) was offered by Spin and both the Ensemble and the young chorus of Theatre Royal Babes had a huge amount to do and they did it very well.
I have to mention the enormous rat which appeared – I missed the reason for it – but couldn’t miss this gigantic rats head which suddenly arrived on stage and looked to reach out into the auditorium. A number of the younger viewers and possibly some of the older ones, were a tad repulsed – but it was undeniably a good moment!
Song choices are fine and the choreography is slick and well executed. As has been mentioned, the lighting is first-rate and the band excellent. I think the sub woofers had been switched to maximum as the auditorium did seem to vibrate a little too much I think – the elderly contingent beside me did put their fingers in their ears at one point!
All in all, there is so much that is good about this production, directed and choreographed with verve by Gary Lloyd. There would appear to be a formula to the QDOS pantomimes and that is fine, but maybe the clinical nature of the execution in large venues just takes away a little of the spontaneity that can be found in a more intimate setting. But this is trifling.
Dick Whittington is a Christmas Cracker of a Panto – dazzling sets and costumes and full-on laughs – it goes off with a bang!
KING RAT – JOHN PARTRIDGE
SPIRIT OF BOW BELLS – SAMANTHA WOMACK
IDLE JACK – ANDY FORD
FELICITY FITZWARREN – NIGEL ELLACOTT
DICK WHITTINGTON – ALEX HETHERINGTON
SULTAN VINEGAR – SPIN
ALICE FITZWARREN – DAISY TWELLS
TOMTOM – RYAN KAYODE
ENSEMBLE – MASON BOYCE, GRACE DURKIN, GABRIELA HERNANDEZ, CHRISTIAN JONES, TIFFANY LEAR, SOPHIE USHER
BABES – THE THEATRE ROYAL BABES
DIRECTOR & CHOREOGRAPHER – GARY LLOYD
MUSICAL DIRECTOR – JOE HOOD
LIGHTING DESIGN – HUMPHREY MCDERMOTT
SOUND DESIGN – BEN HARRISON