Theatre in Wales

Theatre, dance and performance reviews

Energised and lively

Dick Whittington

The Wardens , Aberystwyth Arts Centre , January-10-07
Dick Whittington by The Wardens Well, it is the time of year for it, and, with their usual energy and colour, Aberystwyth’s Wardens’ Society dance, leap, sashay and thigh-slap their way onto the Arts Centre’s main stage for their annual pantomime, under the direction of old panto hand and career dame Richard Cheshire. Following on from last year’s ‘Beauty and the Beast’, this year was the tale of the poor boy made good, through the help of fate, honesty and a trusty cat – Dick Whittington.

The sets were bold, bright and attractive (look out for the seascape and the Sultan’s palace!), providing the usual and eminently suitable larger-than-life feel to the proceedings, while Grant Barden’s lighting design was superbly executed to provide a fitting tone to each scene.

Accompanying the sizeable company was Elinor Powell’s live band, all of whom acquitted themselves with aplomb and gave a lively aural backdrop to the even more lively action onstage.

The cast was made up of a lot of experienced pantomimers, and some new faces too, and all entered into the spirit of the seat-of-your-pants experience that is live pantomime. David Kendell was a most impressive Dick (well, you have to expect the reviewer to embrace the innuendo too) – his spoken voice bright and engaging, his singing voice rich and warm, and his energy never less than top-notch, providing a good foil for all those he encountered, particularly Kate Edwards’ Alice Fitzwarren, who was as suitable and endearing a lead as one could have hoped for. Both were assisted by a fantastic Tommy the Cat, whom the audience fell in love with immediately. Good and Evil were well represented by Theresa Jones and David Blumfield as Fairy Bow-Bells and King Rat respectively. Jones played the calm but energised face of good with great sparkle, while Blumfield gave a barnstorming run as the ultimate villain – sneering, guffawing and tail-swinging his way into the audience’s bad graces with all the finesse of one who has been doing so all his life. Mention must also be made of John Corfield – a splendidly salty Captain Codfish, and his mate Scottie, played by the deliciously bright-eyed and suitably fey Craig Miller. Also, Tom Stroud gave a fabulous performance as Idle Jack, taking child and adult alike along with him and always proving an engaging actor, while Roy Leett brought his inimitable form of genial gravitas with him as Alderman Fitzwarren.

Of course, no panto is complete without its dame, or its standard-fare, gunge-filled ‘slosh’ scene, and this panto had both – and both will live long in the memory. Richard Cheshire was in fine form as Sara the cook – his array of frocks, hairstyles and make-up complementing a riproaring performance as the outrageous ‘lady of a certain age’ of the piece. Ad libs a-go-go, he coursed through the performance and commanded the stage utterly at every point, even when falling over with alarming ferocity. Do keep an eye out for Sara’s Moroccan fashion collection, which took the eye of the extremely regal Sultan, played by Alan Mehdizadeh.

All of the above were supported by a highly energised, very lively chorus of local adults and children, all of whom proved very watchable throughout.

Every pantomime relies on audience interaction to succeed, but it takes a lot of hard work to ensure the reaction you desire. That work was put in, and the audience were the in the palm of the company’s hand from the off with young and not so young alike making their voices clearly heard from start to finish.

The run continues until January 20th, and I would heartily encourage all who enjoy the magic of live theatre, the colour of pantomime and a good evening’s undiluted entertainment to go and see this marvellous production, which offers everything a good panto should, and then a bit more.

Reviewed by: Paddy Cooper

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