Photo Pamela Raith Photography
"...brilliantly written, perfectly cast and it ticks every possible Christmas family entertainment box you can dream up."
There are only three pantos based on true stories – Jack and the Beanstalk, Mother Goose and, of course, Dick Whittington. Okay, so I’m kidding about Stalk and Goose, but I understand that the traditional British Dick Whittington pantomime is actually based on real historical events of 1300s+ (quickly refers to ‘Fact or Fiction’ section of souvenir programme) and the extra bits like Tommy the Cat and the be-tailed baddy, King Rat have since been added to the story (phew). And the guys at Evolution Pantomimes, who already have a great reputation, have indeed pulled a great panto cracker this year, with their Lichfield Garrick production shining with splendifourousness, oozing with hilarity and seriously racing along the best of the Midlands track, on rocket fuel and in top gear. Yes, this year’s delivery is definitely one to rival the bigger theatres - brilliantly written, perfectly cast and it ticks every possible Christmas family entertainment box you can dream up.
Katrina Bryan (Nina in CBeebies Nina and the Neurons) as a Scottish Fairy Bow Bells is a glittering tutu’d delight, whether she is flying across the stage or appearing in a puff of pyrotechnic sparkle, she is beautiful to witness, has an exceptional singing voice and maintains a mischievous charm that only a real fairy could surely harness. Sam Rabone plays a brilliant ‘blokey’ Dame in the form of Dolly the Cook, modelling an array of perfectly outrageous costumes including the most hysterical fat-suit I’ve ever seen, playing alongside comic Ben Thornton as Billy. Ben is a true legend, has an incredible onstage warmth and energy which he generously shares wholeheartedly with the audience. Their super-smart sketches are fast-paced, daring, messy and always very, very funny. Principle Boy and Girl are played respectively by the dashing Ashley Emerson as Dick and very pretty Beccy Lane as Alice. Ashley occasionally reminded me of a young Hugh Grant – and if the proof of the voices is in the singing then these two nailed it to supremo standards. Loved it. Nice character twist as the gorgeous Joanne Heywood is cast as panto-baddy Queen Rat, complete with a tail, a cracking pair of legs and, again, an excellent singing voice that will enchant. Alice’s dad, Alderman Fitzwarren, is played by Evolution regular Ieuan Rhys, who is clearly no stranger to the stage and plays the sensible and doting father with just the right amount of silliness. Lucy Parry plays Tommy the Cat, or on this occasion, Gertrude the Cat (long story) and gives a prize-winning, feline performance with unsurpassed energy which I know must have been enduring in that furry cat-suit. Supported by an excellent ensemble - Rebecca Thomas, Hannah Dettmer, Tom Strang and Nicolais Kerry, who also played the Sultan of Morocco – and three teams of fantastic youngsters, its a quality cast with a wardrobe from heaven, songs to get you moving in your seat and jokes that will make you laugh out loud and forget the outside world for a couple of hours.
Not giving out any more spoilers (except for the wonderful 3D scene) - just get yourself a ticket and allow these clever people to entertain you.
(Oh, btw, get hold of a programme, turn to Ben Thornton’s biog page and lift it to the light – he magically appears with glasses!)
Runs to 5 Jan. Oh yes it does!
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