Dick Whittington

Date 17th January 2020
Society Compton Little Theatre
Venue Compton Village Hall
Type of Production Pantomime
Director Frazer Woodhams and Fred Pollard

Report

Author: Pauline Surrey

The well-known Dick Whittington story was padded out here with an exciting voyage across the sea, (to Brussels for some trade talks!), and a shipwreck, with survivors landing on the exotic island of Mycoco, populated by dangerous, cocktail-swigging, hairy natives ruled over by their enigmatic King Juan!  Great fun additions!

Pat Williams, the artist who paints the sets for CLT pantos, always manages to delight us with detailed, atmospheric painted backdrops, which must enchant all the children present (and hopefully encourage that love of theatre we need to inspire in the younger generation). We had a beautiful, curving London street, with St Paul’s in the background; a lovely sweet-shop; the evocative curve of the sail on our ship; and a very invitingly lush desert island to gaze at and enjoy, and think about. Props were many, varied, and imaginative. I especially liked the deck mops, which became a dinghy, just like that! And of course the clever packs of confectionary used in the clever ’33 confectionary puns’ scene. Oh, and the amazing seagull pie (here’s one I prepared earlier!)

A brilliant array of costumes and headgear gilded this stage: from the little rats; a scary and dark King Rat; Tommy the Kung Fu Cat; Alice’s pretty striped Dirndl; the amazingly hirsute natives on Mycoco Island, and their astonishing King, who looked as though he belonged in the green house at Kew, and sported the most fetching grass skirt. Of course Sarah the Cook was clad in ever more outrageously colourful dresses, pantaloons and wigs, with the makeup to match.

There was a great choice of songs here, and some great singing too. The two principals, Dick Whittington and Alice had beautiful voices, though I found them rather quiet. This may just have been because I was seated at the back near the sound station, maybe the balance was better near the front, for the music itself never seemed too loud. The whole cast performed well in all the lively and jolly dance numbers, and had us tapping our feet and singing along.

What is it about pantomimes in Compton that always create a buzzing, fizzing evening of hilarity and jolly warmth? There is, I guess, such a long history here, such a community spirit, people come year in year out, to enjoy these evenings of fun in this lovely village hall, young and old, all generations seem to be present.  There is no smut, though corny jokes galore; the songs are amusingly chosen to fit the plot storyline; the music is not so deafeningly loud that one gets blasted out the door; the children perform their parts astoundingly well, and are often the star turns. 

Tommy the Cat was one such, admirably well played by Luke Bevan. The way his slick karate chops annihilated those pesky rats was a sight to behold! Amelie Barabich was perfect in every way as the wand waving fairy who led us into and through the story, in beautifully delivered rhyme, crystal clear, (never garbled, which might be an issue with some performers of her age). She was totally in control of her performance, with great facial expressions and acting skills, and really held her audience.  The pantomime dame this year was, in fact, a woman. Mandy Scully made a grand job of Sarah the Cook, with perfect timing (one should never forget how important timing is in Panto), excellent flirting, and good modelling skills (all those gorgeous costumes and wigs!). In a strange way I was reminded of Fanny Craddock!

The menacing King Rat, well played by Amy Aiello, had the most astonishing makeup on, which fascinated, all rodent teeth flashing, and whiskers, and very, very dark.  Captain Cook was a jolly and forthright soul, a little bumbly, and not as confident as he tried to appear. A great performance here by Sean Lyttle. Joe Ruddy played the hapless Jack enthusiastically. I especially enjoyed his scenes with Sarah the Cook, both the "33 confectionary puns in 3 minutes" one and the "Seagull Pie production" one too.  Sam Emmett made a fine King Juan, and Stephen Pugh held it together well with his sensible Alderman Fitzwarren. Our star-struck lovers, Dick (Eleanor Selby) and Alice (Caitlin Ruddy) made an enchanting couple, and were both very good in their roles.

So the action built up, and what might have just been a tired old traditional story was given added bounce by the addition of the exciting voyage to Brussels, the exploding pepper pot, and ensuing ship wreck, and the landing on the exotic desert island of Mycoco (in the English Channel!) The atmosphere at the end, in the final number ‘I’m still standing’ was terrific, we were ALL singing our hearts out!