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Dick Whittington at the Lyric Hammersmith | Review

Luke Latchman (Dick Whittington) in Dick Whittington, Lyric Hammersmith. Photo credit Tristram Kenton.
Luke Latchman (Dick Whittington) in Dick Whittington, Lyric Hammersmith. Photo credit Tristram Kenton.

This production of Dick Whittington at the Lyric Theatre in Hammersmith marks the 10th anniversary of the theatre’s annual pantomime. They are now to west London what the Hackney Empire is to east London as venerable producers of much-loved annual pantos.

This production is an updated version of the well-known story and is set current day London. Dick (played with a bright naivety by relative newcomer Luke Latchman) plays Whittington with a lilting Welsh accent. On his way to seek fame and fortune, he meets up with the usual list of characters: Tom Cat (Keziah Joseph), Bow Belles (a performance of great brio from the powerfully voiced Jodie Jacobs), Sarah Fitzwarren (the delightfully camp, Carl Mullaney who of course gets all the best costumes), his daughter Alice (Hollie Edwin) and the villain of the piece Queen Rat (played with lashes of evil by Sarah-Louise Young channelling her inner Meow Meow – the cabaret performer – not another cat!). There’s also an energetic ensemble of six young people aged between 18 and 25 who give it their all be it as chefs, rats, sea creatures and dogs as well as filling the stage with their 1000 watt energy as the people of London town.

The piece opens with some reggae and then goes into The Greatest Show from the film The Greatest Showman (I don’t think this will be the only panto using this song in the UK this year!) and we’re off and running. The music features songs from various decades such as Sweet Dreams, Fairytale of New York (or London in this version) and Bonnie Tyler’s Total Eclipse of the Heart when Dick is told to turn around! They also sing along to the Baby Shark Song – another ear-worm song that will be heard in pantos the length and breadth of the country in the next few months. These all have new lyrics that fit in with the plot and there’s a particularly clever song that uses the names of well-known restaurants such as Leon, Byron, Costa Coffee etc. – the show could have done with some more of this kind of originality.

There’s also the obligatory panto slapstick moment – in this instance a food fight, as well as booing the villain, “it’s behind you”, a singalong with the lyrics on a back-cloth and audience participation. There are times when this panto is definitely left-leaning with comments about Brexit and an eco-message about what we’re doing to the planet’s oceans but it seems a little scared to go too far although for the most part, they’re probably preaching to the converted in this neck of the woods.

If I had one big criticism is that for once when doing Dick Whittington that the writers and the producers don’t pander to the adults and avoid too many all too easy “dick” jokes. Whilst this production didn’t come close to last season’s Palladium production in the “dick” joke department where Julian Clary avoided double-entendre “dick” jokes and when straight to the single-entendre variety, they still went on far too much in this production. As I said there was some very clever writing from Jude Christian and Cariad Lloyd and I just wish they would have avoided the obvious and steered away from the not so clever jokes that mostly write themselves.

However, if you want a fun panto experience this season, then the Lyric in Hammersmith is the place for you. You’ll end up on your feet dancing along covered in fake snow and leave the theatre with a smile on your face – unless of course, your name happens to be Dick!

4 stars

Review by Alan Fitter

Written by Jude Christian and Cariad Lloyd
Directed by Jude Christian
Design by Jean Chan
Lighting by Tim Deiling
Composed & Arranged by Corin Buckeridge
Sound by Ben and Max Ringham
Choreography by Lainie Baird
Musical Direction by Oli Jackson
Casting Will Burton CDG

Cast: Margaret Cabourn-Smith, Hollie Edwin, Jodie Jacobs, Keziah Joseph, Luke Latchman, Carl Mullaney and Sarah-Louise Young. The ensemble is made up of six young performers, as part of the Lyric Hammersmith’s commitment to nurturing young talent.

Dick Whittington
Written by Jude Christian and Cariad Lloyd
17 Nov 2018 ‐ 6 Jan 2019
Running time 2 hours 15 minutes including one 20 minute interval Ages 6+
Lyric Hammersmith Tickets

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