There's an art to balancing pantomime.
Granted, it's an entertainment primarily these days for children – but
it's their elders who pay for them to see it and they all need to feel
that the whole experience is worthwhile. This year's production by
One From The heart of Dick Whittington has managed
the balancing act to perfection.
Although the story is basically the
familiar one, writer and director Simon Aylin has added some neat
twists. Alice Fitzwarren (Abigail Rosser) is now the sole
proprietress of the London shop; when we reach Morocco, its ruler is
also female, the Sultana (Emma-Kayte Saunders) – cue culinary
jokes galore. Choreographer Richard Peakman has provided some real
show-stopping dances, excellently performed and costumed with real
Then there's Tommy Jones, the coolest
of streetwise moggies in Waylon Jacobs' smart performance which
ditches the usual scraggy fur for dashingly-cut black lurex set off
with the whitest of ruffles. Jacobs has a strong voice and a
commanding stage personality; you know he's a magic cat before Eat Ender Fairy
Bowbells (Jenny-Ann Topham) tells us so.
Sarah the Cook is the highly
experienced Richard Earl, doting on her son Simple Simon (Lewis
Barnshaw) – who gives the part interest with just a hint of
something selfish as soon as Craig Rhys Barlow's Dick arrives on
the scene. He's a Chelmsford lad naturally, which allows for a number
of snide asides concerning the rest of Essex, not to mention London.
Barlow sings well, as does Rosser, and they duet splendidly.
Our villain of the piece is, of course,
Kng Rat, made into perhaps just a trifle too cuddly a rodent by
Kivan Dean. Children from local schools and colleges make up the
juvenile chorus and the male dancers are students of Laine Theatre
Arts, which seems to have a monopoly on the supply of ensembles
across the region this season. Very good practice for them and they
in return give highly polished performances.