All the conventions of the Christmas Panto are evident in this incredibly funny production but they are ever so slightly subverted to great theatrical effect. For example, there is a Dame (played by the hilarious David Elms) but this Dame is presented without the traditional caking of ‘slap’ or make-up.
In the title role of the guileless innocent Ricky Whittington is an actress, further supporting the obligatory panto convention of cross-dressing (played to perfection by the lovely Charlotte Ritchie ) however this Ricky Whittington is more like ‘Sporty Spice’.
From start to finish the laughs come thick and fast, as the actors unburdened by props and complicated scenery use their skills to communicate with and play with the audience. The audience participation and ‘complicity’ is skilfully orchestrated and managed by the cast. Spontaneity and the actors’ craft are clearly at the heart of this witty panto.
London life, landlords, urban regeneration, the North/South divide, politicians are the objects of ridicule and jokes. In addition, there are parodies of musical theatre songs and production numbers, all beautifully observed and performed skilfully.
I think the real brilliance of the writers and director Alex Clatworthy is that they have trusted the actors and have given these talented actors room for ‘spontaneity’ and ‘play’, as a result, the performances are uniformly inventive, enjoyable and at times brilliant.
Emily Lloyd-Saini is particularly funny as Mayor Goodmayor with her beautifully observed physicality and hand gestures, particularly effective in the delivery of her political speeches. Omar Ibrahim as Ricky Whittington’s Cat is eminently watchable throughout as the sardonic cat with a past.
Rob Carter as the evil King Rat was clearly enjoying himself in the role and is an actor of great skill who was truly ‘free and playful’ – a delight to watch. Rosa Robson as Mrs Hickerty Crickerty is a strong actress/singer and opens the show with aplomb – a generous actress.
Finally, I must mention the great work of Edward Hewlett as the show’s Musical Director. With its blend of Panto, Standup and Theatre of the Absurd, I have no hesitation in giving Ricky Whittington and his Cat: London’s F*cked: a panto for our times a 5-star rating.
This is the best Panto you will see this Christmas! Yes, London may be F*cked but this show gives us a great opportunity to laugh rather than cry – Merry Christmas.
Review by Michael Moor
London’s F*cked! A Panto for our times.
Once upon a ti-etc. there was a nice lad called Ricky Whittington, who lived somewhere that isn’t London. Frustrated by the lack of social and economic opportunities in not-London, he put all his possessions into a handkerchief-tied-to-a-stick and set off to is-London with his (talking; get on board) Cat, who was a li’l prick.
Ricky soon learns that the streets are not paved with gold, they’re overrun by rats (which represent disenfranchisement, political disillusionment, economic instability, alienation etc.) and that London isn’t a welcoming place for a young person who makes the bold decision of moving there(/here) without first having been born to rich parents.
Written by Daran Johnson (co-writer BBC’s Siblings, Flat TV, People Time) and Liam Williams (twice Edinburgh Comedy Award nominee, People Time), featuring song, dance and ALL of London’s finest comedy talent. The show is directed by Alex Clatworthy. With lyrics by Daran Johnson and songs composed by Daran Johnson and David Pegg, the Musical Supervisor is Freddie Tapner, the designer is Tom Kingsley and the lighting design is by Ali Hunter.
This performance has a running time of 2 hours including a 15-minute interval. Strobe Lighting and Haze are used throughout the show. This production is supported by the New Diorama Emerging Companies Fund, Diorama Arts Studios, and Theatre Delicatessen.
Charlotte Ritchie first shot to stardom as the impressionable Oregon in Channel 4’s cult student life sitcom Fresh Meat, going on to star in BBC’s Siblings and Call the Midwife. She is also a member of classical crossover band All Angels.
Joining Charlotte in an all-singing and mostly-dancing ensemble cast will be: Rob Carter (Peep Show), David Elms (Borderline), Omar Ibrahim (Birds of a Feather), Rosa Robson (RSC) and Ellie White (House of Fools) and Emily Lloyd Saini (Flowers).
The show features a mystery, rotating role, which, depending on which night you watch, will be performed by one of the following: Richard Gadd, Katy Wix, Will Andrews, Adam Riches, Daran Johnson and Liam Williams.
Ricky Whittington and his Cat
New Diorama Theatre
Age guidance 14+
Booking to 7th January 2017