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Dick Whittington (Harlow)

They like their pantomime stories with a difference at the Harlow Playhouse. "Dick Whittington" is no exception

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Rebecca Keatley and the Ensemble

Tradition is served by Kevin James and Scott Ramsay's script for Dick Whittington by having a Principal Boy (Rebecca Keatley in the title role), a good fairy (Jen Pringle) and a Dame (Nicholas Collett as Barnacle Babs). But that's almost as far as it goes.

Forget about King Rat. Queen Rat in Paul Leno's over-the-top version is much more scary, a worthy recipient of the audience's boos and hisses. Dick does have a cat companion, but Kitty is wished upon him by the Fairy of the Bells and is played by the Russian-born acrobat Yana Rodionova – truly a lithesome feline.

James has written himself a good part as Bosun Willie Wontie; Barnacle Babs is the captain of the Saucy Sal (there's no Alderman Fitzwarren in this story) and shares the knockabout comedy as well as directing. Our heroine remains as Alice Fitzwarren, a girl who knows what she wants – and when – as Danielle Black makes clear.

Queen Rat may lurk in London's underground but she has a street-level minion, Payday Pete (Ben Parsley), for her loan-shark activities. This, as you will have gathered, is a pantomime very much for the present decade, with jokes about making ends meet at the end of the week, nearby towns and assorted politicians carrying their own significance.

Grant Martin leads the band and there's some good choreography by Claire Cassidy, which shows off the talents of the older ensemble and their juniors very well. I suspect that there was only a shoestring budget for this show, but the money has been very well spent, notably on the underwater sequence and the final stylish walk-down.