Hip playwright Tom Well pens a somewhat exhausting panto
SCREAM!!! It’s panto time at the Lyric and the audience is packed with school kids who dance, sing and shout their way through the show. By the end of Tom Wells’s take on ‘Dick Whittington’, the children are so excited, they can barely speak. This is far from a perfect panto but it is pumped up to the max: loud, bursting with colour and pulsating with pop.
The link with Dick Whittington tradition is fairly tenuous. Instead, Tom Wells, who wrote ‘The Kitchen Sink’ (properly funny) and ‘Jumpers for Goalposts’ (properly charming), has chucked in a shedload of extra plot lines. Dick Whittington (Andy Rush) and his sidekick, Cat, are still seeking their fortune in London but there is also a framing device about a wannabe fairy, an evil Queen Rat running for mayor of London, a trip to the North Pole, a love story, political quips and a panto dame with a penchant for muffins.
It’s way too much, and many scenes in Dan Herd’s flamboyant production feel superfluous and a bit weak. There are also a lot of crude jokes about ‘dicks’ and ‘muffins’, which don’t come off. Wells is one of the most big-hearted writers we’ve got, but this panto is all cheek and little charm.
Having said that, the children had a ball. The music is mostly contemporary: Pharrell’s ‘Happy’ (again!), Katy Perry and even the Lego movie theme. The songs are blasted out at full volume and with real feeling by Delroy Atkinson’s Cat and Tiffany Graves’s Queen Rat. The lights are dazzling, Oliver Townsend’s set is cheerfully chaotic and the cast is admirably upbeat. The kids stay on their feet throughout as the adults look on, exhausted and bewildered.
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