Review: Dick Whittington (Lyric Hammersmith)
The Lyric Hammersmith kicks off the festive season with their madcap pantomime
To be a success, a pantomime needs to tick a lot of boxes – and this hit show scores on every level, as well as establishing a heartwarming sense of community.
Written by director Jude Christian and Cariad Lloyd, it's packed with jokes, physical comedy and topical references, as well as a healthy helping of the saucy asides that are inevitable with a hero named Dick. It also zips along at a cracking pace.
There are plenty of jewels in this cast, but perhaps the biggest diamond is Carl Mullaney as the Dame, struggling café owner Sarah Fitzwarren. He delivers the endless double entendres well enough to make them funny every time, and is also superb at handling the crowd – he supervises the children's competition with gentle delicacy, but later mercilessly puts hapless Russell from the front row through his paces as an on-stage dance partner.
The live music is directed with aplomb by Oli Jackson, and the standard of singing is high – Jodie Jacobs as Bow Belles commands the floor with her soaring voice and impeccable delivery. She also duets with Queen Rat, played with gusto by Sarah-Louise Young as a power-mad meanie. Mullaney leads a singalong of Whitney Houston's "I Wanna Dance With Somebody", while our hero Dick Whittington's attempts at bursting into song are scotched at almost every turn.
Luke Latchman is delightful as the wonderfully wide-eyed, hapless Dick from Cardiff, and Kezia Joseph dazzles as his sleek, streetwise Tom Cat, who's horrified by the very notion of venturing beyond Zone 2. Feisty Alice Fitzwarren is given plenty of warmth by Hollie Edwin, while the wry humour of Margaret Cabourn-Smith features in her triple casting as Mayor Pigeon, Captain P-Jones and First Minister Mergeon (a dead ringer for Nicola Sturgeon).
Before rehearsals, the 18-25 year-olds in the Young Ensemble were drilled at a week-long panto boot camp to learn all the song and dance routines, which they deliver with energy and charm – they're especially adorable as goofy sea creatures in the Land Under the Sea.
Jean Chan's design is beautifully thought through, from the portals inspired by a greasy spoon café floor, to the chicken dress made almost entirely from rubber gloves.
Director Christian has produced a show which feels like a celebration of all that's good about London and its citizens. "If you live here, you're one of us," Bow Belles declares, a declaration of inclusion heartily seconded by all the Londoners in the house. The atmosphere is amplified by this being the Lyric's 10th anniversary production. With all the elements you could want from a traditional pantomime, it's fabulous family fun.