For a solid, highly entertaining, family friendly pantomime in Nottingham you can bet your thigh length boots (with or without a puss within) that the amateur People’s Theatre Company’s annual pantomime will be the top place to go. This year, award winning Amanda Hall, has written and directed a super pantomime version of the story of Dick Whittington for the group and their eager to engage audiences.
Unlike some pro pantomimes out there in pantoland there is an actual story to follow in the PTC production, not just a collection of popular songs and lots of glittery nonsense posing as a pseudo story.
But surely, the little kiddies in the audience wouldn’t notice such anomalies, would they? Oh yes they would boys and girls!
In fact, this Sunday matinee audience, which is jam packed with little kids and their parents, the children are exceptionally attentive. This is down to two main things; the polished quality of the script that caters for all members of the audience with enough charm and daftness to satisfy the younger members of the audience and a wee smattering of cheeky risqué humour to amuse the Mums and Dads and Christopher the architect on row C.
The thing that makes this Dick Whittington pantomime so very very good ( yes that is two times ‘very’ folks) is the really high quality of the amateur performers and the confidence with which they play their parts. Pantomimes are not an easily achieved style to present and this company’s hard work in rehearsal and their consummate talent pays off big time. We, as an audience, can just sit back and enjoy the performers’ enjoyment and talents.
Musical theatre stalwart Matt Wesson offers up a sterling performance as pantomime Dame, Sarah the Cook. This Dame is a total winner with this audience due to Wesson’s affability in the role and his, not crossing that fine line between playing the Dame well or being far too OTT and embarrassing the audience. Wesson’s performance wouldn’t look out of place on a professional stage. This reviewer doesn’t offer that suggestion lightly.
Opposite the Dame and the nice people in the story, you have to have a baddie for the audience to boo but, not be utterly terrified of. Former PTC Dame Rob Goll takes on the theatrical mantel of King Rat with a decidedly naughty twinkle in his ratty eye that assures the audience that it is OK to safely “Boo and Hiss” this villain because his villainy is very tongue in cheek, even if he is loud, boys and girls. Goll seems to revel in his role and the mischief he creates and is all the more effective because of his commitment. “ Oh yes he is!”
“What about Dick?” we hear you cry. Well, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, Michael Pearson as Dick Whittington is thigh slappingly good. Obviously not a principal boy ( we would have noticed somehow) but boy does he come come across as immensely likeable and another near professional quality performance in an amateur sphere. Pearson’s winning performance will win him a place in many an audience members’ Christmas Panto heart.
James Murray as Tommy the scruffy old cat is very funny and winsome and thank goodness for that fairy spell that made the cat able to speak English! This reviewer had row F living nightmares considering the other option of Murray’s cat meowing and miming every single one of his many lines throughout the entire show! What a tedious Tom he could’ve become. And don’t get me wrong readers, this reviewer loves cats as much as any cat lover.
Laura Thurman is very engaging and hilarious as the dopey Idle Jack constantly nodding off and having to be woken by the shouts of the audience; Kimberley Allsopp proves to be very sweet as Alderman Fitzwarren’s faithful and trusting in love daughter Alice. Cassie Hall is deliciously daft as the put upon rat Twoey and has great presence on stage.
Marie Rogers is very funny as Mr Bilge and this reviewer is ever hoping that her cake snaffling erupts into a custard pie type of scene. Alas not. Rogers is still very amusing all the same. As Fairy Bowbells Alison Sheppard is magical charm itself and a fine singer as the first half comes to a close.
Smoke, pyrotechnic, bubble and strobe lighting lift this pantomime out of the ordinary as well as the live music from musical director Ray Mcleod. The text offers up topicality and local jokes as well as the storyline, all of which are thoroughly enjoyed by this Nottingham audience. The pantomime is choreographed by Amy Rogers Gee and the creative and functional sets are designed by Cris Brawn.
As reviewers often say – there are far too many people in the cast to mention everyone and this is sadly true in this enthusiastically big cast. However, all of the PTC Dick Whittington ensemble put their hearts and souls into this production; a production which will prove to be one of the longest playing pantomimes in UK amateur circles. It is hoped that the audiences get as much joy out of this Dick Whittington pantomime as the cast and technical teams and artistic support teams have put into its laudable existence.
Dick Whittington runs from Sat 3rd December to Sun 18th December at Nottingham Arts Theatre on George Street Nottingham. For more details see www.ptcnotts.org.uk
Reviewer Phil Lowe.