Content on this page requires a newer version of Adobe Flash Player.

Get Adobe Flash player





A review by Mary Couzens for EXTRA! EXTRA!




Dick Whittington & His Cat

Josh Tevendale as Dick Whittington Photo by Steve Ullathorne


Director – Debbie Flitcroft

Written by and starring Roy Hudd

Designer – Mark Hinton

Choreographer – Helen Jeckells

Lighting Designer – Jody Kelly

Musical Director – Steve Geraghty

Wardrobe Supervisor – Tony Priestly

Wardrobe Mistress and Costume Maker – Paula Patterson


Wilton’s Music Hall


1 – 31 December 2015


A typical Christmas panto has plenty of sparkle, sass and humour and this one is no exception. What the others don’t have’s an English music hall aficionado/seasoned trooper at the helm, playing dual roles as writer and star, foisting it above the rest in terms of quality and sheer entertainment value.

I knew I was in for a treat when the invite hit our mailbox proclaiming Roy Hudd the star of Dick Whittington at 19th century Wilton Music Hall. I’d had the pleasure of enjoying the authenticity of Hudd’s Music Hall singing style at a BBC night of Music Hall song at the Mermaid Theatre a few years back and remembered the experience fondly. What could be better than having one of the nation’s top Music Hall experts making his debut as a Pantomime Dame in the first ever family Christmas Panto ever to be staged in one of the world’s oldest operating newly restored music halls? I ask you.

The mood was decidedly jolly as we appraised the history of the esteemed hall we were visiting in its recently launched one chamber John Wilton Room museum, ahead of the performance. Champagne Charlie and his peers had historically preceded Hudd on the double tiered wooden stage of this beloved emporium, and sailors and their ‘acquaintances’ of the evening no doubt had their intrigues in the balcony above the stalls, where I reckoned much jewellery had been a rattling. Bell ringing for seating, we took our places, awaiting what would turn out to be a delightful evening of fun and frolics for all concerned on both sides of the proverbial footlights, ‘orchestra of 15; 13 absent’ as Hudd as Dame aka Sarah the Cook would quip.

What hits you first of all is Mark Hinton's wonderful, storybook scenery, thoughtfully designed with an eye to maximising minimum performance space on Wilton’s two tiered stage, the centre-point of which is a circular screen allowing for the accent pieces for each sequence to change, city to road to London and back. Magic, as Dickens pointed out in A Christmas Carol in the case of old Fezziwig’s festive Christmas Eve after work warehouse do, isn’t in the cost, but the imagination. Likewise, Debbie Flitcroft’s knowing direction, ever mindful of the need for loosely reined mayhem.

The cast abounds with talented individuals, from Hudd’s acclaimed co-stars and fellow goodies, Ian Parkin in multiple roles and Norman Wisdom like Simon Burbage as Idle Jack, through contemporarily funny and sweet songstress Amelia Rose Morgan as Alice and Dick Whittington himself, in the guise of Josh Tevendale down to and including baddies. The romantic pairing and story twists relating to Alice and Dick has just the right sweet and sour mix to make it palatable to all. Fairy Princess aka The Spirit of the City, miss fix it of the piece, played by Nicole Davis almost, but thankfully, not quite, manages to seem as though she’s escaped from children’s TV, and though it’s always a forgone conclusion she’s there to save the day, her appearances add welcome colour and appeal to the whole. Gareth Davies as Ronaldo Ratface is the villain we’d all hate to love, but do anyway, as his flair for hissing his over the top lines, spoken and sung, with relish is oh, so savoury!


Gareth Davies as Ronaldo Ratface in Dick Whittington & His Cat at Wilton's Music Hall

Photo by Steve Ullathorne


Music for this evening of festivities is a veritable soup, heaving with splashes of Music Hall sing a long, fizzy pop, middle of the road rock, Disneyesque spurts and Musical style soul all ably handled by two musicians armed with keyboard, drums and laptop. Imaginatively designed costumes, by Paula Patterson, are a cartoon like, history, Music Hall and animation inspired explosion of colour, spangly tights and plaited and curly wigs aside, and Hudd’s ensembles and their underpinnings in his Damish debut must be seen to be appreciated! No sensitively shrouded shrew this, but a formidably heaving mass of masculinity overflowing with OTT pseudo feminine charm! Any innuendos are, literally and figuratively speaking, blatantly comic in the ‘I’ve got a lovely bunch of coconuts’ sense.

Unlike other pantos I’ve seen, in which the ‘star’ does his or her turn, generally with the aid of a sometimes, superior (in terms of talent) sidekick, here, we are treated to a smorgasbord of laughs whenever funnier members of the troupe combine forces, such as in the Automaton sequence, with its hilariously dodgy, wildly inventive choreography, by Helen Jeckells, that almost seems an Escher take on Chaplin’s mechanical ‘Modern Times’ scenes. Not only is there no shortage of laughs here, but there is also, plenty of high stepping dance, as younger, West End calibre members strut their stuff, enlivening the production, with the audience enjoying it no end! Costume changes galore assure boredom leaves the house, as does the gorgeous singing voice of leading lady, ‘Alice’ and paramour, ‘Dick’. Special mention to Dick Whittington’s high leaping cat, Tommy, enthusiastically sprung into paw licking, whisker twitching life by Steven Hardcastle who, given his graceful agility and high leaping movements seems to have surely, been weaned on a diet of Gene Kelley movies!

Then there is the added bonus of ad-libbing, that only performers who’ve done their time onstage enjoy, which Hudd and company, given their heightened comedic senses, take on with great gusto. A sweetly comic interlude at the end between Hudd and some children from the audience rounded off this high voltage, yet somehow, charmingly pared down evening of high jinks and escapades nicely, leaving us with a warm sense of the Christmas to come as we headed out into the chill December night air.


Roy Hudd aka Sarah the Cook with the cast of Dick Whittington & His Cat at Wilton's Music Hall
Photo by Steve Ullathorne

Times: 7pm Tuesday – Saturday (excluding 24th and 25th December) with 2pm matinees on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays
Prices: Previews: £25 for stalls, £20 for benches, £10 for all children under 16 and OAPs for matinee performances
Main Run: £30 for stalls, £25 for benches, £15 for all children under 16 and OAPs for matinee performances
Copyright © EXTRA! EXTRA All rights reserved