Christmas just isn’t Christmas without Matthew Kelly in an outrageous frock. At least that’s what I thought for the past couple of years while watching Wimbledon Theatre’s Panto. Normally the shining jewel in the festive season’s crown, Family First have clearly spared no expense in producing this glitzy show (Arlene Philips alone must have cost a pretty penny!), but unfortunately this year it falls short of being the magical spectacle I was expecting.
Dick Whittington is a classic title that should be perfect for the London audience, but at times the story feels a little flat and meandering. This is mainly down to Arlene Philips’ flat delivery of the dull rhyming couplets. As the Fairy Bow Bells there isn’t any twinkle in her toes and the sparring with Matt Horrop’s King Rat is less of a tight tango of words and more of a shuffle at a tea dance.
Sam Hallion does a good job of winning the audience over as Dick Whittington (which when up agianst Matthew Kelly and Tim Vine is no mean feat) but his big crescendo of Take That’s Never Forget just whip the kids up into the frenzy Panto is known for.
But let’s be honest, the real draws of this Panto is Tim Vine’s Idle Jack and Matthew Kelly’s Sarah the Cook. Kelly dons the Dame wig with ease and brings just enough sauciness to the role to have a knowing glint in his eye while doling out double entendres but also relishes in the silly slapstick. What more can be said? He’s one of the best Dames out there and long may he grace the stage. As Idle Jack, Vine fires out one liner after one liner,all of which are funny. However, after about an hour an half this scattergun approach to jokes can be a bit tiring and I found myself longing for a dance number to break up the action.
Overall, Dick Whittington is amusing enough; some good gags, talented cast and one or two big sing-song numbers to get you in the festive spirit. But it lacks the elements of fun and chaos that make Panto’s a riot to watch and this Christmas season there are certainly other shows with smaller budgets but bigger hearts.
Reviewed by Roz Carter
DICK WHITTINGTON plays at the New Wimbledon Theatre until 15 January 2017