Review – Dick Whittingon – Louth Playgoers

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It was at the Mayflower Theatre in Southampton in 1987 that I last saw a Pantomime;  it was ‘Babes in the Wood’ and starred Les Dawson and John Nettles… I don’t have any memories of the show but whatever I thought of it, it has taken until last night for me to see another Panto, ‘Dick Whittington’ in Louth at the Riverhead theatre by Louth Playgoers; and what a fabulous night it was!

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The show was produced and directed by the talented Jamie Harris, with Frances Brindle his very able assistant, who between them choreographed the dances in the show, apart from the Studio 2000 dances with choreographer Nicky Wright.  with Joel Browne Musical Director and ran from 6th to 14th January 2017.  At this moment in time, there are  a very limited number of tickets available for Tonight – Thursday 12th January, all other shows are fully booked, and I’m not surprised.

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The first thing that struck me when the live band started and the curtains opened was the delightful set and scenery depicting London Town, both up close with the shop fronts, including a little tongue in cheek reference to Bake Off and in the distance the London skyline;  all designed and constructed under the direction of Bob Booth, with both new and older set pieces brought back to life for this production.  His team of set builders and backstage crew did a wonderful job and with 8 scene changes throughout the show, each one very different and beautifully crafted, including a ship with moving wheel and brilliant side panels which changed as the ship fared the storm.  I was both delighted and surprised during Act 2 after the storm, to be transported to an under sea world, where fish, dolphins, turtles and other sea creatures sparkled in the near complete darkness with UV light, highlighting a brilliant spectrum of colours and shapes; what a spectacular display with wonderful music accompaniment.  Just awesome and breathtaking!

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We were introduced early on to Alice Fitzwarren played by Sophie Grundy, and her father, Alderman Fitzwarren, Chris Leeworthy.  Both played their characters extremely convincingly, Alice the demure girl, quiet and friendly to everyone, with Alderman a force to be reckoned with.  He came into his own especially in the later scenes where he’s trying to show the deck hands how to mop the deck with very little success, ending in a mass of mops being thrown around the stage! Despite the hilarity, he kept his poker face throughout!

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If a character wanted to make an entrance in this Panto then King Rat played by Ruairidh Greig did that every time he entered the stage.  The special effects team did a fantastic job, with sparks, flashes, smoke and bangs which all added to the dark and exciting side of this character.   The audience got right into the booing and hissing and King Rat’s make up was as brilliantly scary, nasty and mean looking as his perfectly matched characterisation, including the voice (how he learnt so many words I don’t know!!) (photo above not depicting the make-up from the actual production)

At this point I’d like to make special mention to the wardrobe team, – Elizabeth Rodger, Shirley Berry and Mandy Barker and also those responsible for the make-up – what an exceptional range of costumes and designs they came up with – from rats, cats, Captains, Sultan and of course the fabulous Dame, who had more costume and hair changes than anybody.

Dame Dolly, Richard Precious, was for me, one of the funniest characters in the whole show;  how he maintained his act and with so much going is a wonder;  I don’t think I’ve laughed so much for a long time.  The sewer scene with King Rat was probably the highlight for me, most likely for all the wrong reasons; starting with discussing a furniture store bringing in recycled stools and ratchet screwdrivers, those near me (and you know who you are J and E), despite some of us not ‘getting it’ immediately, couldn’t stop ourselves from completely losing it from laughing so much; in fact my cheeks still hurt until I’d driven home to Lincoln several hours later!  What with ‘Hooting Hooters’, ‘He’s behind you’ and ‘Oh No He Didn’t’ moments, and general bawdy humour suitable for both children and adults, it was a never ending fast paced feast for the eyes and ears.

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Another favourite scene was in Act 2, in the Galley, where Dame Dolly and her son, Idle Jack played perfectly by Jack Lovett, were cooking for the crew.  The typical ‘slapstick’ routine was hilarious, with ‘soggy bottoms’ a plenty.  The comic timing was impeccable and had the whole audience, including a group of very special young people, joining in with gusto!  Jack showed himself as a very versatile actor, despite most of his stage presence requiring a lot of comedy, he played the fool, the simpleton, the clever son dodging out of work and he did all those with aplomb; a delight on the stage!

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I loved the pairing of Captain Cuttlefish, Derek Maher and Scupper, Darren Melton; they were a great comic combination and bounced off each other throughout all the scenes they were in, especially on the ‘poop’ deck – or was it a deck, or even just ‘poop’?

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Dick Whittington himself was played by James Burgess; I loved the parts where he showed his ability to act the part, as if he couldn’t act; genius, well done James! I couldn’t possibly mention Dick (yes Dame Dolly, we’re talking about Dick again…!) without mentioning Tom the Cat played by Molly Carter; her feline characteristics and mannerisms were purrrfect!

One of the final scenes of the show took place in Morocco, where we saw the Sultan, played by Neil Le Sueur and his many ‘ladies’.  Neil played a powerful character, and held centre stage showing off his formidable strength in front of his ‘harem’; including the fabulous Dame Dolly who he took a shine to!

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I couldn’t end this review without mentioning Fairy Bowbells, played by Laura Kelly.  She narrated sections of the Panto and lead the audience through the scenes, and ended Act 1 with a gorgeous rendition of ‘Hero’…

Along with the Louth Playgoers cast, the dancers from Studio 2000, both junior and senior dancers took a leading role throughout the Panto.  The dancers appeared in many scenes, performing various creative routines, all in different, but spectacular costumes to suit the set and scene.  The junior dancers performed the ‘Hornpipe’ routine, and completely stole the hearts of the audience, they were all fabulous!

The live band carried the whole production together with the cast singing along in lovely harmonies with a number of solos to a vast array of well known and loved melodies including:

Good Morning London Town
Hornpipe
Man I Feel Like A Woman
I Would Walk 500 Miles
At The Shop
Consider Yourself
Live and Let Die
Bad
Hero
Sea Cruise
If I Were Not Upon The Sea
My Heart Will Go On
Proud Mary
Jaws Theme
Wipeout
Hot Hot Hot
Everlasting Love
Happy Days
Good Morning London Town Reprise

From start to finish, my friends and I were enthralled, and engrossed, and although it was sometimes difficult to pick up some of the dialogue,  overall it was a fabulous show, and well deserved of it’s near sell – out run.

Well done to the live band, the technical and creative team, and all the other set builders and backstage crew.  You should be proud.

Thank you to Darren Hobson for use of the photographs.

Now for an insight into the ‘people’ behind the character!

Dame Dolly – Richard Precious

How long have you been involved in theatre?

Started with ‘WAP’ at the Caxton theatre in Grimsby so nearly 34 years!

What has been your favourite show that you’ve been part of?

Bouncers by John Godber – been in it twice, directed it once at university

What, for you, makes a great performance?

Thorough preparation with a thorough knowledge of the script so you know others lines too should you need to get out of a ‘mind blank’ moment

What do you do to prepare yourself for your performance and to get into character?

Keep quiet. Isolate myself and focus on what’s ahead

What is your favourite part/song from this show?

The Deck scene with Captain Scupper, Jack and Alderman. Visually funny and great to be a part of

If you could work with any actor or actress, from past or present, who would it be and why?

Sir Anthony Hopkins, a great, fantastic all round actor

What is the one theatrical character you’d love to play

I’ve just done it… The Dame!!

Why is community drama/theatre important?

Which Leads to a focused, confident and relaxing performance

 

Idle Jack – Jack Lovett

How long have you been involved in theatre?

3 years, starting with the Playgoers production of Sleeping Beauty in December 2013

What has been your favourite show that you’ve been part of?

Beauty and the Beast – the Playgoers 2015 pantomime. It was an excellent team, a fun script, and my first stab at a principle role

What, for you, makes a great performance?

As an audience member, a great performance is one that draws you into the story and genre, inspires you, and touches your heart. As a cast member, it is one that portrays the story and characters as you, the writer, and the director envisioned; it gets a good audience reaction, draws the cast and crew together as a team, and is fun.

What do you do to prepare yourself for your performance and to get into character?

I generally try to start taking on my character in the wings before going on stage, and I go through what the character must be thinking or feeling in the coming scene. There is also no shortage of pacing and stopping in the bathroom, especially on opening night!

What is your favourite part/song from this show?

My favourite part of this show would have to be the scene in which the Alderman is shouting commands at us on deck, and we are making mistakes and getting everything wrong, and throwing mops all around the stage. My favourite song is definitely ‘Consider Yourself’.

If you could work with any actor or actress, from past or present, who would it be and why?

I would love to work with Tom Hanks – his ability to excel in portraying both comedic and dramatic roles is a tremendous inspiration to me.

What is the one theatrical character you’d love to play

I would love to ply Cosmo Brown from ‘Singing in the Rain’, especially having seen Donald O’Connor performing ‘Make ‘em Laugh’ on Screen.

Why is community drama/theatre important?

Community drama/theatre is important because it allows you to meet new people, make connections, and build lasting friendships. It teaches you talents that go beyond performance, such as working as part of a team and relating to people. It is also an excellent way to temporarily escape from life and have a laugh.

 

Fairy Bowbells – Laura Kelly

How long have you been involved in theatre?

I have been involved in the theatre since I was 15 years old. My first show was Cinderella panto in January 2010

What has been your favourite show that you’ve been part of?

Definitely ‘Sister Act’, it was such an amazing show to be part of and I love the songs in the show. Sister Act was such a ‘feel good’ show and I would love to do it again!

What is your favourite part/song from this show?

My favourite song from the show is definitely ‘Hero’. I think it is such an iconic song, and is definitely a challenge for me! I also love the lighting and special effects during the song, particularly the smoke and the lights on the dancers costumes.

If you could work with any actor or actress, from past or present, who would it be and why?

I would love to work with Tom Hanks! He is my favourite actor and I’ve heard he’s a very nice person! I would also love to work with Meryl Streep as she is a very diverse actor and I’m sure I could learn a lot from her!

What is the one theatrical character you’d love to play

I am next auditioning for the role of mary Magdalene in Jesus Christ Superstar. I love the show as it has some very powerful moments, and also because Mary is an alto singing part which is perfect for me!

 

Tom the Cat – Molly Canter

What, for you, makes a great performance?

Staying in Character

What is your favourite part/song from this show?

500 Miles

If you could work with any actor or actress, from past or present, who would it be and why?

Mara Wilson because my favourite film is ‘Matilda’

What is the one theatrical character you’d love to play

Annie

 

King Rat – Ruairidh Greig

How long have you been involved in theatre?

Five Years

What has been your favourite show that you’ve been part of?

‘Ladykillers’ – I played Professor Marcus and General Gordon (the parrot)

What, for you, makes a great performance?

The script reminds me of the character I’ve worked on for months

What is your favourite part/song from this show?

Good Morning London Town

If you could work with any actor or actress, from past or present, who would it be and why?

Patrick Stewart because of his hair style, Audrey Hepburn because she is… Audrey Hepburn

What is the one theatrical character you’d love to play

Fagin in Oliver

Why is community drama/theatre important?

Keeping creative drama real not just disembodied on TV screen

Thanks Team, looks like Tom Hanks needs a visit to Louth!

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