Hold on to your hats (or maybe that should be rats) – the Orchard Theatre has stepped up the pantomime game this year with 3D spectacular Dick Whittington starring Eastenders favourite Shane Richie. A talented cast brings this fantastic, extravagant panto to life with a production value you’d expect from a West End show!
There’s a lot of praise to be given here for everything from the set and lighting to the costumes and effects. If an impressive, monstrous kraken preying over the theatre stalls wasn’t enough, the second act treats the audience to a pretty frightening underwater 3D film, complete with water pistol action from the theatre staff and a chorus of screams from kids and adults alike.
Alan McHugh’s script wasn’t trying too hard to be overtly cool or funny like some pantos which was this show’s strength. The laughs came naturally with potentially more comedy for the adults than the children, alongside your classic pantomime audience interaction.
Eastenders star Shane Richie leads the show beautifully as Dick Whittington himself. Clearly an expert in the panto field with quick wit and comic timing, he pulled off the role and a great Enders-themed skit! Although sometimes the show centred around him just a bit too much, especially with two massively talented leading ladies alongside him.
Ashleigh Gray as the Spirit of the Bells was simply not used enough and I would have loved to have heard more of her gorgeous voice. Danielle Corlass (Alice) is a great talent although I felt she could have had a little more fun with the role. Unfortunately the one song that really showed off both the girls voices was also a chance for magician Phil Hitchcock (Alderman) to demonstrate his talents which meant everyone was distracted by disappearing birds! All three were superb in their roles but it would have been nice to appreciate them all more individually.
Pete Gallagher is a fantastically scary King Rat and seems to have settled into his tail nicely. Malcolm Lord is the perfect panto dame, portraying a warm and funny Mrs Sarah Fitzwarren with an impressive wardrobe to match!
This delightfully fun and brilliantly produced pantomime is definitely the one to see this year.Dick Whittington runs at the Orchard Theatre, Dartford, until Sunday 3rd January with tickets available online now.
Production shots courtesy of Craig Sudgen.