Reviewed by Catherine Brown
The story of a young man hoping to find his fortune in London with the help of his friend Tabby the cat, ‘Dick Whittington’ is entertaining crowds at Stafford Gatehouse Theatre throughout the Christmas period. A lively show, with lots of traditional elements of a seasonal panto, the audience are given the additional bonus of watching the talented cast playing and singing a variety of rock’n’roll music.
Even before the performance started, members of the cast mingled with the audience to introduce themselves and get everyone excited. During the show, characters who were not telling the story stayed on stage to play guitar, drums, and saxophone or as backing singers, which demonstrated a real team effort.
The show begins with the devious King Rat (Tomas Wolstenholme) describing his plans to marry the alderman’s daughter Alice Fitzwarren and become the next mayor of London. Luckily, the loveable Dick (Max Runham) supported by his acrobatic cat Tabby, was eager to make his wealth in the city and capture the heart of Alice in the process.
Despite the help of panto dame Sarah the cook and the failed interference of the bumbling Billy Bungalow, Alice gets kidnapped by King Rat and finds herself trapped in the underground sewers. Will they escape the stinking rats? Will Alice get to marry her true love? The twists and turns make for an edge of your seat performance.
Throughout the evening, the talented cast demonstrated excellent musical and dance ability. Familiar tunes, which got the audience moving and singing along included ‘Uptown Girl’, ‘Eye of the tiger’ and ‘Walking on sunshine’. Vocals were especially strong from Laura Sillett, playing Alice, especially during the song ‘I need a hero’.
The biggest cheers and giggles of the night were for Sarah the cook (Peter Manchester) however high praise should also go to Guy Freeman as Billy whose lines and comedy timing were played to perfection. The jokes were a little risqué in some places but luckily they went straight over my young son’s head – I guess innuendo is to be expected at this time of year with the older members of the audience giggling at words left unsaid.
The Stafford Gatehouse has a strong history of putting on magnificent pantos using the rock’n’roll style. The theatre is in a central area with plenty of parking and public transport routes nearby. There is a bar and coffee shop – both a comfortable place to have a glass of wine or hot drink along with a selection of snacks.
Writer Peter Rowe and Director Rob Salmon have created a fabulous show which hits all the right buttons – humour for all ages, a strong cast and songs seamlessly linked into the storyline. ‘Dick Whittington’ would be a great show to entertain the family during the Christmas period.
Tickets cost from £15.50 to £20 (booking fees may apply).
Dick Whittington is at the Stafford Gatehouse Theatre from 7 December 2018 to 6 January 2019, for more information or to book tickets visit www.staffordgatehousetheatre.co.uk or call the box office on 01785 619080.
Stafford Gatehouse Theatre, Eastgate Street, Stafford, ST16 2LT | 01785 619080