Dick Whittington (review)

IN the traditional tale of Dick Whittington (loosely based on a real character) our eponymous hero makes his way to London, where the streets are reputedly paved with gold, to seek his fame and fortune.

Thursday, 15th December 2011, 9:56 am

So what if he gets diverted off his chosen course and ends up in the Aylesbury Vale? The Waterside has ambushed a panto favourite and given the story a showering of magical fairy dust to bring its second great family Christmas show to the area.

Entertainer Jonathan Wilkes (33 going on 16) plays Dick, a hapless lad with an overwhelmingly forceful mother, who hits the road with his cat Tommy in search of happiness. Along the way he falls in love, is accused of a heinous crime, battles evil and saves the day.

It doesn’t quite work shifting the story to Aylesbury but who cares? Anything and everything goes in panto-land, including bringing one of EastEnders’ most depressing characters, Jean Slater, and giving her a personality transplant. As Fairy Bow Bells Gillian Wright is pixie perfect, always waiting in the wings to get young(ish) Dick out of trouble and paving the way for good to triumph over evil. She certainly worked her magic on Tuesday night.

There are gags a plenty in this show although a lot of the rather risqué jokes may go over the heads of younger family members. Mostly they’re schoolboy stuff which raised more than a titter from the Cubs and Scouts who joined local celebs (including Life’s Too Short star Warwick Davis and his family) and VIPs for the official opening night.

Wilkes’ boyish good looks enables him to just about get away with playing the innocent Dick. The star has a mega-watt personality and the charisma to charm an audience and he’s a natural to front a family show..

But the star of this production is Christian Patterson, very amply padded up to play Dick’s mum, the outrageous panto Dame, Sarah The Cook.

This larger than life “lady” with a stunning designer wardrobe, gets all the best gags and steals the majority of scenes from the rest of the cast. Sarah may not be as famous as some other Dames but this is one mighty maid. While Dick and the object of his affections (a fit bird with a toothy smile called Alice) play love’s young dream the merry widow sets her sights on finding happiness.

There’s all the usual silliness with lots of slapstick, including a water fight and the traditional “he’s behind you” song which seems to feature in every panto these days.

There’s nothing original in pantomimes – and we don’t expect it. They’ve been entertaining families for hundreds of years and god help any director who veers too far from providing all the corny jokes and fairy stories.

In this fight of good against evil the baddie is a rather arrogant rat with a right royal singing voice. Steven Serlin enjoys himself as the nasty King Rat who, along with his followers, is a pretty nifty mover. Ratty plans to over-run the town and spread dirt and disease – but that’s before he comes up against the kung-fu fighting Tommy and his master.

One of the highlights of the show comes in act two when there’s a Day-Glo My Little Mermaid sketch featuring some impressive underwater characters. And how does that fit into the story ? Buy a ticket and find out!

Dick Whittington runs until December 31. For tickets call the box office 0844 8717607 or online www.atgtickets.com/aylesbury.

And if you want to get ahead of the crowd – you can book for next year’s panto – Peter Pan!

ANNE COX