In a year of a jubilant Olympics, mayoral elections and a marathon Jubilee, the capital-centric story of Dick Whittington was always going to be a smart choice, and Hackney Empire has delivered a Christmas panto smash that's practically a paean to London. From Rina Fatania's floating entrance as Fairy Bowbells to the gorgeously realised adventure on and under the ocean waves, 'Dick Whittington and His Cat' is the height of crowd-pleasing fun.
Joanna Riding slaps a good thigh as Dick, her smile never dropping for a moment as she fights off Kat B's seriously charismatic King Rat. Steve Elias makes an excellent fist of rthe dame role, and Tony Whittle brings a scene-stealing roughness to Alderman Fitzwarren.
Writer and director Susie McKenna has put together a production that straddles traditional and contemporary with ease: there's a snatch of dubstep, some neatly reconstructed gender politics and a multicultural flavour, but also all the scattered sweets and call-outs you could wish for. A barb at Boris raises a cheer from the adults, but there's less sauce than you'd expect. Slightly truncated and it could be the perfect panto, but with the first act running at 90 minutes, there's a little too much of a good thing.
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Average User Rating
4.7 / 5
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Top top quality performances. My 9 year old son loved it to bits, after moaning he didn't want to go. Can't believe it was full to bursting. GO see before it's too late!
Excellent show - with or our without children. Especially loved Dick's mother (great renditions of Bond tracks) and the King Rat. Super performances from Dick and his love interest too who sing a great version of Take That "Rule the world"
I was lucky enough to see Dick Whittington at the Hackney Empire on the first night. Last time I saw this show was more years ago than I care to admit and then the London skyline was typified by Big Ben and red buses! Now its the London Eye, the Gurkin and The Shard! It is lavishly produced with many different sets all seamlessly changed in two or three seconds of lights down. Almost all of the theatre's facilities are used with flying performers and a large ship which sinks in a storm! The music is performed by five musicians playing eight instruments. I would have liked a bit more saxophone music too and I would also have given it a little more prominence in the mixing. The pianist ( musical director ) gave a lively display and at times looked likely to eject himself onto the stage! The dialogue is very child friendly with no lewd adult jokes at all. Rather less Hackney/London specific lines though. There could easily have been more. Not even a single direct reference to Ken or Boris by name! The cast were all very good and the show was very well rehearsed and the sound was good too. Although I was watching the evening performance and it might have fallen apart during the matinee for all I know. One of the best sets was the underwater ballet scene. Very well designed and for a few minutes you could have been at Covent Garden! I rather expected some U/V fluoresced fishes at the beginning but perhaps they will add that later when they have sussed out how to effect them. The music and songs were very enjoyable although I missed a Titanic theme when the ship was sinking and a song from the bows in that iconic scene which could still be added! All in all a very enjoyable show that is bound to be a big success for the Empire! Tony Glazier