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FringeReview UK 2020

The Official Dick Whittington – A Pantomime for 2020

National Theatre

Genre: Children's Theatre, Comedy, Contemporary, Costume, Live Music, Mainstream Theatre, Musical Theatre, New Writing, Online Theatre, Theatre

Venue: NT Live At Home Olivier


Low Down

Ned Bennett directs Dick Whittington written by Jude Christian and Cariad Lloyd, set and costumes Georgia Lowe, choreographer Dannielle ‘Rhimes’ Lecointe, Music Supervisor Marc Tritschler, composed arranged and with music production by DJ Walde, Music Director and additional Music and arrangements Benjamin Kwasi Burrrell who’s on keyboards with Nicki Davenport Electric Bass, Guitars Emily Linden, Drums Justin Shaw. Lighting Jessica Hung Han Tun. Sound Paul Arditti, Associate Director Danzel Westley-Sanderson, associate Set and Props Designer Debbie Duru, Associate Costume Designer Fiona Parker, Assistant Choreographer Jackie Kibuka.

Head of Broadcast Emma Keith, Director for Screen Diccon Ramsay, Technical Producer Christopher C Bretnall, Senior Producer Flo Buckeridge, Lighting Director Bernie Davis, Sound Supervisor Conrad Fletcher.




Quite a mouthful for six-year-olds – Jude Christian and Cariad Lloyd’s The Official Dick Whittington – A Pantomime for 2020 is chock full of dick jokes through to positive non-binaries; and references back to British culture grandparents might remember. Not to mention the model of a G&S pastiche. And meanie patter-songs like ‘If you want Pret to survive/you get back on the tube.’ And lines like ‘ hate democratic process…. this election’s in the bag’? Hope Laura likes that one…

Some of this might have been written weeks, even months back but the tone’s spotted-dick-on. Something to annoy all ages, though it’s not the panto, it’s what it stands against: above (or below) all, Queen Rat. And no good trying whack-a-rat (there’s a scene with that of course), she’ll always return. ‘I’m Ashes Reflux… Michael Gove.‘ So panto plots come freighted with political jokes. Buoyant fluffiness aside, this one barely contains its fury: dead right too.

So Dick might turn round 2020? It’s in the mayor’s job description and this gloriously irreverent up-beat on a disastrous year is what we all so need. Ned Bennett directs a brisk two hours five with brief interval. Because of the new restrictions the NT filmed the fourth preview on December 15th, and it’ll be available for hire from January 11th.

So apart from Dick and the Cat, there’s the Chicken (the panto Full English Dame role replete with fried eggs and a baked bean skirt) Dickie Beau as Sarah Fitzwarren steals whole show corners. Alice and her mother, and assorted meanies including a pirate crew who at the start of Act 2 consign Dick and Tom Cat, now newly certain of their role, into a whirlpool.

Lawrence Hodgson-Mullings makes an appealing Dick (‘from Leeds all the way through three tiers…’) with a fine tenor range too, with a lift of exuberance in his stage personality. Cleve September’s Tom Cat is almost MC and certainly anchor in a fluffy suit. He lives with Sarah Fitzwarren and her stage daughter Alice so droop-on-his-luck Dick gets a ready-made family and love-interest. Georgina Onuorah – is a heart-warming kooky, cute and furious role by turns. Needless ot say there’s complications.

Though it all seems like that on the Olivier stage, choreographer Dannielle ‘Rhimes’ Lecointe spinning us round as cameras track the performance. Lighting by Jessica Hung Han Tun makes a simple circular space alive with story and the wild invention of set and costumes by Georgia Lowe is a burst of primaries. Director for Screen Diccon Ramsay keeps the cameras flowing seamlessly through the light effects.

They certainly find New Zealand and the NZish Princess Rainbow Mermaid Pigeon (Laura Checkley) who gives them… an everlasting Oyster. Well it is the bottom of the sea.

There’s plenty of original material Music supervision’s by Marc Tritschler, composed arranged by DJ Walde, additionally from Benjamin Kwasi Burrell. It’s boppy and memorable mixed with cheeky quotes from everywhere – not a few from Strictly.

Dick’s mayoral speech is never not going to succeed: ‘We march for justice..’ and yes the NHS. There’s little of 2020 not covered, tailored deftly to raise cheers not the obligatory chortle. And there’s a lovely kiss (watch out to se how that’s done).

Amy Booth-Steel relishes Queen Rat with an acetylene cut-through voice. Emerging out of a toilet ‘Queen of the Sewers, Manager of the U Bend And as for Captain Tom they should have kicked over his Zimmer frame ages ago’ gives you a flavour. Beware of fart jokes.

Melanie La Barrie a violet, vibrant Bow Belles ‘the spirit of London’ starting a clap-a-thon before the panto gets started; ‘There’s something very special about that dick’ is just her earliest joke. Beth Hinton-Lever (Hench-Rat Roberta) and Tinovimbanashe Sibanda (Amanza).

It’s an ingenious panto too, flung together with intricate care, taking account of zany plot over wise-crack, and pitching it to what children today can take in: a lot. You don’t miss the extra few days or indeed a year – and such a panto needs no luxury set but the fast-moving production. It’s difficult to see how anything speaking better to our condition could have been devised. It’s a joyous confection out of thin lockdown.