The nights are getting longer, the days are getting colder and Christmas is just around the corner, which can only mean one thing…It’s panto time!
Kicking the season off in style was the Downsview Players’ adaptation of Dick Whittington, which ran at the Downsview Methodist Church for a limited period. Written by Joshua Clarke and Lewis Clarke, the panto tells the story of Dick Whittington (Julie Nye) who travels to London to seek his fortune accompanied by trusty sidekick, Tommy the cat (Laura). When he arrives he finds a job in Fitzwarren’s (Amanda Perry) shop and falls in love with his daughter Alice (Sammi Canning). Meanwhile King Rat (Simon Charles) longs to be Mayor of London, and he and his children Onion and Garlic (Michele Charles and Sarah Milne) come up with a dastardly plan to take power. It’s up to Dick and his new friends to stop the evil rats and save the day.
Directed by Anne Bassi, Dick Whittington included all of the essential elements of panto – silly gags, evil baddies, audience participation and even custard pies. The beauty of pantomimes is that they appeal to both young and old, and as well as providing plenty of laughs for children, there were plenty of gags packed in for the slightly more ‘mature’ members of the audience.
The cast all did a great job and stayed in character, even with interruptions from the audience. Julie Nye put in a confident performance as the title character, with firm support from Laura, who managed to raise a lot of laughs as the cat. Terry Fuller, who played the foolish Jack, was a big hit with the younger crowd, as was Charlotte Pay, who gave a confident debut performance as the Fairy. Elsewhere the bad guy Simon Charles was convincing enough as King Rat to warrant boos from the crowd, while Michele Charles and Sarah Milne were a great double act and injected a lot of humour into the piece as his two dim-witted children. Every good panto features a memorable dame and in this adaptation Steve Canning donned a wig and frock to play Sarah the Chef. Canning demonstrated razor sharp comic timing as he cracked jokes, dished out double entendres and flirted with an unsuspecting male member of the audience.
On the day there did appear to be a few sound issues, one or two missed cues and songs cut short, but in a way this felt part of the show and fitted in with the mayhem of panto. At just under two and a half hours long, a little editing of the show would ensure it held the attention of some of the younger audience members for longer, but despite the long running time they certainly seemed to enjoy the show.
On the whole, with great performances, colourful costumes, an impressive set and plenty of laughs, Dick Whittington was an entertaining production providing fun for all the family. I look forward to the Downsview Players’ next performance.