Dust off the false eyelashes, slap on the sequins and whack me in the face with a fistful of glitter, it’s pantomime season! OH NO IT’S NOT! Sorry….couldn’t resist! Love it or loathe it, panto is as essential to Christmas as crackers and dad jokes, and is one of the most brilliantly bonkers and quintessentially British of festive traditions. Celebrating its 10th year of panto, Jude Christian and Cariad Lloyd give Dick Whittington the full Lyric Hammersmith treatment.
Following the classic basis of a fairy tale, our hero Dick Whittington arrives in London to seek fame, fortune and happiness. Guided by the magical Fairy Bow Bells and the uber cool Tom Cat, he embarks on an adventure to become the Lord Mayor of London and rid the city of Queen Rat and her team of revolting rodents. Despite having its own traditions, rituals and customs, panto is still constantly evolving and writers Christian & Lloyd successfully update the legend for a modern post-Brexit Britain.
Most pantos these days rely on a bit of celebrity casting to help draw in the crowds, but with such a talented bunch of performers on stage, these cameos are never missed. Luke Latchman has the challenge of playing the juvenile lead, a stock character that’s notoriously difficult to portray without coming across as excessively sentimental or mawkish. Latchman successfully plays on the awkwardness and gawkiness of Dick, qualities that as an audience member it’s hard not to feel empathy for. Keziah Joseph is highly watchable as Tom Cat, delivering lines with honest naturalism and ease, while Jodie Jacobs excels as Bow Belles, with stunning vocals and a Barbara Windsor-esque chuckle that’s perfect for the true spirit of London. Sarah-Louise Young thrives as villain Queen Rat, thoroughly evil and Machiavellian, whilst never being an out-and-out caricature. Carl Mullaney’s, Sarah Fitzwarren makes the audience feel safe enough to regress to a childlike state, and Hollie Edwin offers strong support as main love interest, Alice. Last but by no means least, is Margaret Cabourn-Smith, who merges into Mayor Pigeon, Captain P-Jones and First Minister Mergeon with delightful comic ease, her quips and tongue in cheek improvisations an absolute joy to watch.
Corin Buckeridge masterfully interprets various pop classics, Jean Chan’s designs are typically bright, colourful and garish. and with so many tongue-in-cheek innuendos, it’s the first panto that seems to rely slightly more on entertaining the older members of the audience. Transitions can be improved upon, as some comedy comes from the awkwardness of entering/exiting scenes, and the ultimate defeat of Queen Rat proves far too easy. Ultimately though it’s a thoroughly camp affair that’s festive fun for all the family. For the ultimate magical pantomime adventure, get yourselves some Dick nudge-nudge, wink-wink Whittington this festive season! Merry Christmas all!