Big Dick Whittington’

Date 26th February 2022
Society Theats
Venue Bonkers Playhouse, Kettering
Type of Production Pantomime
Director Barbara Hockey
Musical Director Barbara Hockey
Written By Tom Whalley

Report

Author: Luke Campbell

The Show

Adult Pantos are a recent phenomenon to arrive on community theatre stages. Such productions take the traditional pantomime stories, retain all the characteristics and overall plot, and create adult only shows. The genre of pantomime is well suited to such adaption – the characters are already outrageous, and innuendo is a staple of any decent panto. However, what clearly sets an Adult Panto apart from the traditional family version is that innuendo goes completely out the window – literally nothing is off limits, and the script and cast can be as mucky as they like.

The shows created when staging Adult Pantos are – for me – more than just grubby jokes and crude adaption; a good Adult Panto is a perfect blend of dirty slapstick, smutty jokes, stand-up’esk interactions with the audience, and drag comedy.

Tom Whalley’s ‘Big Dick Whittington’, as staged by Theats, certainly hit all my markers. I, like the extremely lively and appreciative Corby Amateur Theatrical Society contingent present in the audience, greatly enjoyed Theats’s fabulously filthy interpretation of the script!

Creatives

Barbara Hockey took on the task of stage and musical direction. She is a formidable talent and did an amazing job! The blocking was excellent – she used the small stage and cast to optimum effect. The use of freeze-frames and slow action movement also added greatly to the comedy on stage.

Her work on musical direction was outstanding. The adaptations made to songs such as, ‘the Song that Goes like this’ (delivered brilliantly by Daniel Fortune and Kimberley Hollis) and ‘Favourite Things’ (sung with gusto by Kimberley and Stephen Cox), were hilarious. Only the legendary late Victoria Wood has had me laugh in a similar vein!

I must also applaud the extremely comical insertion of references to musicals such as ‘Les Misérables’ in ‘Go West’ and ‘Cats – Memory’, and the additional humour added by songs like ‘Eye of the Pussy’ and ‘Agadoo’. Again, comedic genius was truly on display.

Barbara made an invaluable contribution to the overall success of the show.

Cast

The production consisted of a small cast – seven members in total. Every single member did a brilliant job! The talented group worked together to ensure the script delivered on every point I previously mentioned: “dirty slapstick, smutty jokes, stand-up’esk interactions with the audience, and drag comedy.”

It is my normal practice to mention performances that particularly stood out for me. However, on this occasion, I do not consider it appropriate to do so. This is because the team of actors was extremely balanced with every member bringing something worthy of note to the production. Each cast member brought great characterisation to the stage, performed with endless amounts of energy, and interacted fiercely with the audience.

So, instead, I would like to highlight three memorable moments from the hysterics that occurred on stage.

First, just when you thought the cast could push the boundaries no further…. stage left – enters a naked King Rat (played by Martin Brown). I was extremely grateful to be sat in the back row (make of that what you like!!).

Second, the slapstick comedy scene involving mops when ‘Aboard the Minge’ made me laugh the deepest of laughs. The traditional panto routine had been extremely well adapted for the adult production.

Third, the outstanding interaction on offer – from every cast member – during Act 2, Scene Five ‘The Sultan’s Palace’. This scene saw the story come to its end and the cast sing several songs, including ‘Agadoo’ on many occasions, much to the annoyance of Dame Fitznicely (played by Stephen Cox)

I would like to specially acknowledge Phil Mills, who – as I understand it – was required to stand into the role of Dick Whittington for much of the run because Daniel Fortune sadly came down with Covid-19. I applaud Phill for keeping the show going. Well done also to the cast for managing such uncertainty. This last-minute change in actors shows how challenging the pandemic has made – and continues to make – the delivery of live theatre.

Finally, however, I must note that my report cannot – in any way whatsoever – capture the sheer fun the audience had whilst watching Theats’s production of ‘Big Dick Whittington’. The utter force of the laughter in the auditorium is this production’s greatest achievement and testimony.

Production

The production was staged at the very special Bonkers Playhouse. As such, the stage and back-stage space on offer was limited. Accordingly, a wise decision was made to present the show against black curtains. This, for me, worked: it allowed the audience to focus solely on the hilarity offered.

The props were well sourced and of a good standard. The cast were well costumed in attire that added to the visual offering.

Sound was of an excellent standard and the lighting design was effective for the production.

Well done to the backstage crew, managed by Karen Morgan. The very small team handled every transition in the spirit of the production. 

The programme, which was available online, was of a professional standard. The poster that marketed the show was equally of a very good standard.