New Wimbledon Theatre
Cast Includes Arlene Phillips, Matthew Kelly and Tim Vine
Running Time: 2 hours 10 mins inc. Interval
Dick Whittington sometimes feels like an awkward choice for a pantomime. A story that less people are familiar with, combined with a lead character that can be underdeveloped and less interesting can lead to some of the issues that this panto faces. It at times feels like a shopping list of what must be included, rather than a strongly coherent show – all the expected things are present (Brexit jokes, Strictly references, local topical humour) it feels more like a checklist. The pacing and rhythms of the show feels off, and the script at times feels very thin.
Star casting can make or break a panto. Making her panto debut this year is Arlene Phillips as Fairy Bowbells, and even though this was some way into the run she seemed both unsure of her lines and how to say them. At times she seeming to lack in energy and was exceptionally wooden, and her line delivery of rhyming couplets lacked any sense of the correct rhythm and pacing of the lines.
The same can not be said of Tim Vine and Matthew Kelly. Both actors felt like the driving force of the show, and it is telling that the biggest laughs came from the pair. Both are brilliant at interacting with the audience, and balance the fine line of knowing humour and risqué jokes that is essential in panto. The jokes are strictly family friendly, whereas there was possibly some potential to go slightly further and be slightly cheekier.
The rest of the cast acquit themselves reasonably well with the material, however, Dick and Alice as characters feel underdeveloped, as do many of the other characters. This even stretches to the backdrops – once the setting changes to Morocco it feels like we’ve switched pantos to Aladdin instead, as it has a distinctly Oriental feeling, and feels like these have been reused from a previous year.
Summary: A reasonable panto that fails to bring in as many laughs as it should and also feels underwhelming, even with good casting. Disappointing. ***