Dick Whittington

Date 15th December 2021
Society Wigan Little Theatre
Venue Wigan Little Theatre, Crompton Street, Wigan
Type of Production Pantomime
Director Christine Armstrong & Ellen Fitton
Musical Director Mark Lloyd
Choreographer Louise Hawkes

Report

Author: Jim Briscoe

Dick Whittington a traditional pantomime performed by Wigan Little Theatre, at Wigan Little Theatre, Crompton St, Wigan on Tuesday, 15th December 2021.

The story of Dick Whittington is well known and always very popular. This version was written by Wigan Little Theatre’s very own Bill Collins who brought the tale up to date with lots of modern-day comedy references.  This tale tells the story of the ambitious hero Dick Whittington and his trusty cat ‘Tommy’ and their endless exiting adventures together. Against all odds, Dick finds true love and becomes the Mayor of London

It has been just over twelve months since I last visited Wigan Little Theatre to see their last pantomime ‘Jack and the Beanstalk’ and what a twelve months it has been!  Both Professional and Amateur Theatre have been tested to the limits and with Covid still lurking in the background…staging any production still requires a true leap of faith.  So, the Production Team of Christine Armstrong and Ellen Fitton (Directors), Mark Lloyd (Musical Director) and Louise Hawkes (Choreographer) should be congratulated for taking that leap and getting this panto to stage.  Folks your efforts paid off… great job, great panto!

It was brilliant to see Wigan Little Theatre packed to the rafters! The anticipation from the audience was tangible and you could just tell that everyone present was so thrilled to back to see live theatre again and they were not to be disappointed!

The Production Team had pulled together a talented cast of twenty-six adults and young people who were well rehearsed and ready to give of their best.  When you see cast members giving of their best, it is never easy to start identifying individuals or moments without doing injustice to others, but, as always, I am prepared to stick my neck out and identify MY five favourite individuals or moments from this pantomime…

The ‘SHOW STOPPER’ for me and the ‘star’ of this pantomime, was the ever so talented John Churnside playing Sarah Suett (our Panto Dame).  This was a masterclass, an actor on top of his game!  Fabulous characterisation, versatile, energy driven, stage presence aplenty, his ability to work an audience is nothing short of amazing / his comic timing faultless, the jokes, the one-liners just rolled of his tongue!  A master craftsman at his best… it was a privilege to be there to witness his performance… be ever so proud, sir!   

Our Comedy Duo is next… Captain Ben Poop-Decker and Bosun Billy Bilge Water played by Joey Wiswell and Mark Lloyd respectively. Both are blessed great stage presence and looked totally comfortable in these roles. Great comedic timing, bounced off each other well and created two great characters!  Well done guys!

The song… “If I were not on board this ship” was outrageously funny!  Based upon the classic “If I were not upon the stage” … it was well sung and well-acted…the movements and timing were spot on…Congrats to those involved which included, John Churnside, Craig Pinnington, Joey Wiswell, Mark Lloyd, Brian Kendrick and Peter Jones. Not sure who put this together, but I would hazard a guess that Louise Hawkes may have had something to do with it… well done to one and all on a great job!

Peter Hall did a wonderful job as the villain of the piece “KING RAT”. Peter engaged with the audience immediately, resulting in guaranteed ‘boos’ whenever and wherever he appeared!   Great stage presence, great characterisation.  Costume was superb which enhanced the character… be ever so proud, sir!

Finally, Craig Pinnington did a great job as “Idle Jack”. Confident, with great stage presence. Craig made this part his own! Worked well with the Dame and interacted well with the audience. Be proud young man!

THE CAST included: Sandy Kershaw played ‘Dick Whittington’, Catherine Rose played ‘Alice Fitzwarren’, Brain Kenrick played two roles: ‘Town Crier’ and ‘Sultan of Morocco’, Tara Haywood played ‘Fairy Bow Bells’, Peter Jones played ‘Alderman Fitzwarren’, Ruby Farrall played ‘Tommy the Cat’, Josie Butler played ‘Zuleika’ (Sultans Hand Maiden), Emily Scrutton and Lavinia Rose O’Loughlin played two ‘Shop Customers’ and Sadie May Bolton played a ‘Villager’.  JUNIOR CHORUS/DANCERS (playing Londoners, sailors, harem girls and rats) Sadie May Bolton, Isabelle Halliwell, Isabella Rhead, Lyla Brown, Chance Hayes, Cara Richards, Josie Butler, Lavinia Rose O’Loughlin, Naomi Ryan, Ruby Farral, Emily Scrutton, Belle Halliwell, Taya Powell, Rose Higham Smith and Scarlett Stockwell.

Staging…. the painted sets and clothes were superb! The staging and scene changes… slick and worked well… so congratulations to Shelia Cleary and Alan Sharples (Stage Managers) and their backstage teams of Brian Heap, John Churnside, John Gostelow and Peter Jones (Set Constructors); Christine Armstrong, Ellen Fitton, Mary Hill, Veronica Teesdale, Maureen Schofield, Patricia Ashurst, Maggie Hall, and Val Miller (Set Painters). Deryn Ashton, Jacqui Dutch, Caitlin Delaney, Alicia Stupples and Veronica Teesdale, Charlotte Grundy and Sam Fairhurst (Props / Stage Crew) … well done folks, great job!

Lighting… as always at Wigan Little Theatre was impressive throughout and enhanced the production.  Congrats to Owen Rasburn, Rachel Prater, Jacob Lathom, Matthew Woolley, Tom Wyler, Chance Murphy and Becky Hampson…. be proud folks!

Sound… was under the watchful eye of Rick Kershaw, Christine Armstrong, Paul Willsher, Chris Morgan, Rachael Foster, Ellie Fortune, Ben Sreggles.  We did have a couple of mishaps with the sound, especially n Act 2 just before the Dream Scene (Dick dreaming of becoming Lord Mayor of London), which did affect the scene, but not the overall production. Plus, if I can be slightly picky… I did feel the taped music throughout was a little loud…  there were a couple of duets between Dick (Sandy Kershaw) and Alice (Catherine Rose), where, with neither being miked up, the music did slightly overpower the vocals, which was a shame really, as both girls had amazing voices and I really did want to hear every word they sang! 

Costumes… were wonderful!  Colourful, apt and perfect for this production - (As previously stated, King Rat’s costume - superb).  So, congrats to the Wardrobe Team… Stacey Vernon, Mandy Hill and Seamstress Barbara Rimmer for their hard work in producing and pulling together such an effective wardrobe.

There was little or no doubt that the society’s loyal audience loved every minute of this production and rewarded the cast generously with cheers and applause and at the finale and as we left the theatre, the acclaim and comments made by both adult and child were such, that there was little or no doubt that this had been a huge success…. well done, everyone!

Thank you for inviting my wife and I. To everyone at Wigan Little Theatre, have a great Christmas and let us pray that we can all gather together in the New Year to celebrate again what we all love – Amateur Theatre!

Stay safe, keep well…

Jim Briscoe
NODA NW
District 6 Rep