Theatre in Wales

Theatre, dance and performance reviews

A joyous show

Dick Whittington

The Wardens , Aberystwyth Arts Centre , January-10-07
Dick Whittington by The Wardens THE Wardens are currently presenting their annual pantomime at Aberystwyth Arts Centre. It is their 25th successive production and one of their very best. In Dick Whittington this year, you will see the ideal of what pantomime should be - a magical, moral tale told with humour, pathos, engaging characters and endless invention.

The director, Richard Cheshire, has yet again got the mixture exactly right, telling his story with clarity and truth. His hero, Dick Whittington, goes on his torturous journey from rags to riches with many a fraught moment before its final happy resolution. David Kendall is charm itself as this endearingly honest and forthright lad. He has a strong, melodious singing voice and his acting is natural and fluent, especially effective in moments of pathos. He is well matched by Kate Edwards as Alice Fitzwarren, a spirited and positive heroine and the chemistry between them works well. Their duet "You'll be in my Heart" is very movingly done - not just another pop song about parting.

Evil and Good are strongly represented. I have not seen such a good, powerful King Rat as David Blumfield for many a year. He knows exactly how to handle a booing audience and makes his points forcefully. He is a big presence excellently offset by Theresa Jonesí Fairy Bow Bells, a jaunty, entertaining and undaunted harbinger for Good. The moral of the story is safe in their most capable hands.

Comedy, as you would expect, is well to the fore and the Dame is the essential feature of any panto. In Richard Cheshire, you have the Dame per excellence. As Sarah the Cook he runs the gamut from wit and force, through anger and peril to song and dance. It is a brilliantly conceived piece of work played with experience, relish and complete control - it is a sheer delight to watch.

Tom Stroud is an energetic, personable Idle Jack in a performance that misses no trick or opportunity for fun. Captain Codfish and his mate Scottie, a delightfully odd naval couple are extremely well played by John Corfield and Craig Miller. Roy Leet is a nicely bewildered Alderman Fitzwarren and Dick's cat is charming, characterised by Cambria Bailey Jones. Others to catch the eye are Julie McNicholls (in two well contrasted roles) and Alan Mehdizadeh (a suitably bloodthirsty Sultan of Morocco).

Sets and costumes are fresh and colourful, looking as if they had just emerged from workshops and workrooms. They add enormously to the whole conception and are enhanced by eye-catching lighting. A word too for the music. What a delight to hear such a strong chorus which can cope well with harmony and to hear an orchestra that owed very little to technology - good music played well and underscoring the actors sympathetically. The songs throughout were so carefully selected that they seemed to have been written especially for this production, so naturally did they arise from the full text. Full credit must be given to the resourceful and imaginative musical director, Elinor Powell. Choreography is bright and inventive (Rachel West) and sound tactfully and skilfully balanced. (Andrew Gatherer).

The pace is brisk and the "highlights" (a musical hall chorus routine, boat drill, a slapstick "slosh" scene and each musical number) are well placed and executed. The whole mix is blended and directed with the expertise, panache and devotion that only a real panto aficionado like Richard Cheshire can conjure up.

I think I have run out of superlatives but I assure you each one is richly merited. Go and see for yourself! This is a joyous, professional show by any standards. What a superb way to celebrate 25 years of success!

Reviewed by: Derek Cheveley

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