Dick Whittington - January 2023
Review - Northumberland Gazette - Richard Dale
It must be hard to write a pantomime - you’ve got to please two audiences at once.
Dick Whittington by the Alnwick Theatre Club handles both with ease.
I was in the audience for a Sunday afternoon performance and, right from the off, there were some surprisingly daring references that sailed past the heads of the younger audience.
Even some of the parents were caught out by their own reactions and there were a few looks around to make sure it was okay that we laughed.
Casting is one of the other difficulties of panto: you need some tentpole performers that will support everyone else’s performance.
And Alnwick Theatre Club have theirs in Jimmy Dodds and Peter Biggers.
The moment that Biggers strode onto the stage as the villainous King Rat, his presence alone was enough for the children to loathe him.
Indeed, every time he appeared, it was to a natural chorus of boos and hisses.
As he and his rats chewed the scenery with some over-the-top performances, so did Jimmy Dodds fill a down-to-earth and knowing role as Maureen the Cook.
In a wonderful North East accent, with lots of local references and jokes, he helped firmly ground the performance as a Northumbrian pantomime.
The whole cast gained confidence from performers such as Dodds and Biggers and there was a wonderful feeling about the whole affair.
When the occasional minor mis-steps and fluffed lines crept in, there was an easy geniality that carried them through it, even ad-libbing and joking around.
This even extended to the crew and I was pleasantly surprised when one of the performers called out to sound technician Matthew Slack by name.
The staging was very well done too, with experienced hands knowing when to let the laughter or applause ride before crashing in with sound and lighting effects.
I don’t know who painted the backdrops and it seems a little odd to mention them in a review (I’ve never seen it before), but some of them were very good indeed. The road to London and the Moroccan scenes were atmospheric and full of detail.
The dancers deserve special mention as their set pieces came so naturally and were so full of life that I failed to notice they were principally there to cover scene and costume changes.
The Alnwick Academy of Dance did a splendid job and their appearances as rats was fun and gave energy to the stage.
The chorus too rounded out the panto by filling the stage with activity and it was fun watching their antics.
It may seem a little odd to be going to a panto towards the end of January, but it seemed a more apt time. It’s more wintry at the moment than it was at Christmas and it’s easier for parents when they’re not having to do present shopping and festive preparations. It all makes sense.
For a panto so full of fun and jokes, it seems astonishing they missed the open goal of calling it Dick Whittingham.
The show is back on stage this Thursday, Friday and Saturday (January 26-28) at 7.30pm with a Saturday matinee at 2pm. Tickets cost £14 for adults and £10 for children (£1 extra for a premier seat) and are available from the Playhouse.