‘Dick Whittington’ reviewed by Gordon the Optom

by December 11, 2015

‘Dick Whittington’ is one of the oldest (600 years) and most loved pantomimes. This script was completed in 1994 by dancer and choreographer, Gail Lowe, but it is still fresh and fun-packed. Gail is the Principal of Phoenix Creative Arts schools in Dorking, on the south coast of England.

This Darlington Theatre Company production can be seen at the Marloo Theatre, Marloo Road in Greenmount on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday evenings until 12th December, curtain up 7.30 pm, Sunday matinees 2.00 pm.

 

Incidentally, the Marloo Theatre website now requires an ‘au/’ at the end of the address. Their real website is not ‘for sale’, so please use   http://www.marlootheatre.com.au/

 

All of the flats, at the rear and side of the stage, were very pale, dappled blue. Colourful fruit barrows and their attendants stand at the side. There was the exterior of a small cottage. In another scene was the corner of a harem and a small swimming pool.

      Thunder can be heard as beautiful Fairy Bowbells (Natasha Smith) strolls onto the stage, in search of her lost friend, Rosalind (Sophie David). She finds her pal locked in a cage, and as she releases her, there is a flash of lightning and the evil Esmerelda (Siobhán Vincent) – boo hiss – arrives. She cons Bowbells into giving her a magic neck talisman. With this new power, Esmeralda turns Rosalind into a black cat, Kitty (Tanya Doogan).

      In the town square, Bosun Bowleg (David Seman) and two seamen (Adrian Ashman, Paul Presbury) are searching for a new captain for Alderman Fitzwarren’s (Paul Reed) boat. The Alderman’s atrocious cook, Sarah (Suzanna Matla) is destroying even more food in her oven. Two local idiots, ‘I’ (Jonathan Quinn) and ‘Spy’ (Angus Cummings) have been hired to follow and kidnap, Alice Fitzwarren (Melissa Bull), the Alderman’s daughter; however, Esmerelda’s press gang, the evil Rats (Sophie David – radiated stage presence, Thomas Outred, James Dick,) led by King Rat (David Bain) – boo, hiss – were also out to kidnap any able-looking man.

      As handsome Dick Whittington (Channing Whitworth – good singing) is helping scout leader, Miss Peabody (Jacqui Ashman), he is captured and whisked away onto a ship. They set sail for Morocco but their boat sinks.

       The extremely wealthy Sultan (Michael Hart – at his best) and his gorgeous daughter, the appropriately named Maneeta (Tyler Morgan) capture the crew. The Sultan’s butler, Jeeves (Timothy Presant) pleads on behalf of the captives, but the Sultan continues to admire the harem dancers (Jenny Trestrail, Natasha Smith, Rachel Vonk).

       Will dangerous Esmerelda be stripped of her powers? Is there any happiness or love left in the World?

 

Marloo has one of the largest stages in the WA community theatre group, and although the small amount of set was of quality (George Boyd), the quantity let it down. The stage often looked stark. Whenever the chorus left the stage, the two or three actors remaining appeared lost in a void. Perhaps leaving a few ‘peasants’ loitering whilst the singers performed would have helped. There was good and speedy set changes by stage manager Hayley Derwort’s team of Jordan Tabb, Elanor Cooper-Ritter, Graham Dick, Michael Dick and Ashley Johnson. When the LED lighting changed from white to colour, it certainly helped make the scene more intimate and less clinical (lighting designed by Michael Hart and David Bain, operated by Mike Smale).

The lightning and explosion effects were MOST impressive, especially when topped off with Greg Rusha and Brendan Tobin’s inventive sound design.

The costumes (Rachel Vonk, Tracy Vonk, Sallie Ketteringham) were perfect for the characters, ranging from the beautiful gown of Fairy Bowbells, to the ‘horrible rats’ outfits. Then there was the diaphanous dress of the Sultan’s drag queen daughter, Maneeta – great fun. Then there is that very different camel (constructed by Annie Bramble) – not your typical Panto camel – it was meant to be ridiculous, matching the two mad characters inside.

‘Dick Whittington’ was enthusiastically directed by the talented Rachel Vonk. The intricate choreography was clever and well rehearsed, thanks to Joanne Neesham. The musical directors, Brendan Tobin and Amanda Minutillo gave us catchy tunes, with a sensible sound level to ‘accompany’ rather than take over the singer’s vocal cords. At times, perhaps too many different themes were taking place on stage simultaneously. Plenty of action is wonderful, but to have serious singing, with dancing and a comedic camel altogether can be a little overwhelming.

A thought :- Who was the Dame of this panto? What does a Dame normally look like?

When comedians crack jokes, the script can be first-class, but much of the success depends upon the style of delivery. The cast were word perfect and well-rehearsed, but often the lines were delivered as though they were part of a drama – clearly, at a good pace but in the wrong genre, so many of the jokes did not quite work correctly. The corny humour especially needs to be spelt out – as though telling a four year old a joke – with even a boom boom noise from the musical accompaniment or a simple bass drum just to drive home the point. Pantos are the one time that ‘ham’ is best.

‘Marloo’ can be relied on to entertain children of all ages. Your kids would love this.