sat 16/01/2021

Dick Whittington, National Theatre at Home review - colourful and amiable entertainment | reviews, news & interviews

Dick Whittington, National Theatre at Home review - colourful and amiable entertainment

Dick Whittington, National Theatre at Home review - colourful and amiable entertainment

Free stream of the NT's Covid-affected pantomime

Lawrence Hodgson-Mullings as Dick WhittingtonThe Other Richard

In a much-depleted and truncated pantomime season that withered on the vine, the National Theatre's debut production of Dick Whittington lasted only four performances before the show was cancelled; it has now released this recording, which will be available throughout the current lockdown.

In a much-depleted and truncated pantomime season that withered on the vine, the National Theatre's debut production of Dick Whittington lasted only four performances before the show was cancelled; it has now released this recording, which will be available throughout the current lockdown. It's an enjoyable two hours spent in amiable company, with lots of bright colours and fart gags to keep the young ones entertained while the adults will enjoy the saucy humour which the title character's name invites.

The production started life in 2018 at the Lyric Hammersmith and writers Jude Christian and Cariad Lloyd have updated it with plenty of nods to Covid. That theatre's PC approach to panto is still occasionally evident in a few laboured political gags and there are some London-centric moments: Dickie Beau's wonderful Over Easy Café owner Sarah Fitzwarren (pictured below) delivers a speech about being unlucky in love and, while the wordplay is terrific, it depends on the audience being familiar with the capital's Tube stations. But no matter, this is a show with a lot of heart and one that children of all ages will enjoy.

That goodheartedness fits the show's subject matter, of course, as it's about a boy with a can-do attitude who is befriended in the big city by a street-smart cat, in a story of good triumphing over evil – here in the shape of Queen Rat (played with comic malevolence by Amy Booth-Steel, who makes her entrance via a toilet, accompanied by a soundscape of burps and farts).

Lawrence Hodgson-Mulling as Dick, Georgina Onuorah as Alice and Cleve September as Tom Cat are all sweet, but Booth-Steel and Beau get the best lines (and the latter's costumes by Georgia Lowe are chuckleworthy in themselves). Laura Checkley, meanwhile, mines great comedy from her multiple Pigeon roles as she enters each phase of the story in a different avian guise.

Performed in the round, with props sometimes emerging from below the stage, the show's original anarchic spirit occasionally doesn't translate to the bigger space and Ned Bennett's much higher-concept staging here. But the lighting design, colourful costumes and energetic choreography give it the exuberant Day-Glo feel of a pop video, and the songs in Benjamin Kwasi Burrell's music direction are a highlight of the show. It ends with a spirited rendition of Rihanna's “We Found Love”, which has the lyric “We found love in a hopeless place". Yep, one theme of 2020 summed up nicely.

The show was filmed live at short notice without the whizzbang effects the creators might have liked to include, but I suspect most viewers won't notice any technical shortcomings (I certainly didn't). The National Theatre has made it free to view.

The show's writers have updated it with plenty of nods to Covid

rating

Editor Rating: 
3
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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