Dick Whittington at Bristol Hippodrome

ON the face of it, this show is a big production with wonderful special effects, spectacular scenery and costumes, and a large cast.

Thanks to the tremendous work of lighting and sound  dir­ectors Matt Clutterman and Dan Samson, the speciality costumes of Mike Colt­man and The Twins FX visual effects, which include a giant King Rat that takes up half the stage and flying red Lon­don Bus, virtually all of the packed Bristol Hippo­drome audience left believing that they had seen the biggest most spectacular pantomime presented there for many a long year.

In fact, it is all a big, expertly presented, illusion with just 11 principal players, an eight- strong ensemble backed by a delightful group of young dancers from the Bristol School of Dancing, and a five-­piece orchestra that produces a louder sound than a 70-piece symphony orchestra.

Make no mistake, you have to have a talented company to complete the illusion, headed by Shane Richie in the title role. He has to in­cor­porate the requirements of rom­antic lead, principal com­e­dian and main contact between the players and the audience. You have as hard working a team as director Ian Talbot could wish for.

With Peter Piper’s Captain Cockle providing a fine comedy partner. David O’Reilly, as Sarah the Cook is the most underused Dame I can recall in a panto, but Shane milks every drop of humour out of a tongue-twister routine. With the addition of Christine Tucker’s attractive Alice Fitzwarren, Dick’s lady love, that trio also exploits many comedy opportunities in their own version of the Twelve Days of Christmas.

Regrettably there was no slapstick to be found anywhere in the show. No one got wet, covered with paste, or lost any item of clothing. Which with this cast of high quality comedy players on hand was a shame.

Shane Richie was also left to exploit four delightful youngsters from the audience, aged between four and seven, and thanks to their lack of inhibitions had a whale of a time with them.

There were, however, a few adult innuendos, particularly references to the problems of old age here and in other parts of the dialogue, which would have been frowned upon a year or so ago, but in an era where you have to be ultra careful not to offend religious or minority groups appear to be now much more acceptable.

A nice battle between good and evil between Jennie Dale as Queen Rat and Shona White’s Spirit of Bow Bells, both of whom used their limited vocal opportunities to make you wish they had more at their disposal.

Add Blair Cameron’s tip top dancing Kitty Cat and the spirited finely timed comedy top quality  tumbling of the four Acromaniacs and you would be hard pressed to find a weak spot in the performers.

It all might be based around the art of illusion, but it still adds up to a spectacular,  high-powered,  fast-moving and fun-filled show.


Posted in Reviews on .