Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Dick! - review

Written by: Ed Theakston (@EdTheakston)

Leicester Square Theatre, London

Pantomime is a form of theatre with a long and somewhat varied history. Men indulging in their guilty pleasure of dressing in girls clothes and girls in boys clothes, awful humour, cringing parents and children getting their first theatrical experience. We all hold panto near and dear to our hearts, even if a little hesitantly. Stuart Saint’s Dick! at Leicester Square is a deliciously naughty, raucous guilty pleasure.

Billed as ‘not for the faint of heart’, the show lives up to its name with plenty of dick-related puns, and scenes including a swordfight with a rather large black dildo. The plot, by and large, is the story of Dick Whittington and his cat, but with some rather wonderful changes. For a start, Dick is “a dick by name and a dick by nature”, and struts around the stage in a rather louche fashion sporting an impressive package. His cat, Dave, is a downtrodden, cigarette-jacket-wearing and martini-drinking pussy with a dry sense of humour. Dick and his cat are helped by Fairy Bellend on a journey to the mystical land of ‘Sohoho’, where he hopes to find his fortune. His fortune here is less focussed on monetary gain, and more on getting his leg over. When in London he meets Alice, a somewhat chavvy teen destined to inherit riches, and Sofonda Cox, her aunt and guardian. Meanwhile the evil Queen Runt (rhymes abound) is plotting to steal Alice’s fortune from beneath their noses.

Stuart Saint’s adult pantomime uses songs from Gaga to Sondheim, as well as some brilliant new ones. The references to the early closure of Loserville and some close to the knuckle Saville-related jokes are right on target. Awful puns and double entendre are balanced with moments of comical genius and the use of audience interaction is spot on. It’s a low-budget production squeezed into a tight space, but the edge of this production would be lost in a traditional theatre.

The cast is downright glorious. Stand out performances come from Lucyelle Cliffe as Queen Runt, Rae Brogan as Alice Fitz-Nicely and Nathaniel Tapley as Dave the Cat. Lucyelle Cliffe’s vocal is impressive and her cockney Queen is delightfully evil and naughty. Rae Brogan throughout gave a strong performance with impeccable comic timing and a knack for improvisation. Nathaniel Tapley was the perfect contrast to the bigger, brasher characters and his dry witticisms are brilliantly timed. Again, his improvisational skills are hilarious and he is superbly watchable.

Miss Dusty ‘O’ steals the show as Sofonda Cox. Her timing, wry wit, knowing looks and anti-pantomime air is flawless. She can work an audience and indeed holds them in the palm of her hand. You cannot fault Miss Dusty ‘O’’s performance; she is undoubtedly one of the best panto dames you are likely to see this year.

This is an adult pantomime that knows the tradition and the rules, it plays off theatrical convention perfectly, the cast corpsing and breaking out of characters works impeccably to add to the atmosphere. Not at one moment does the energy drop, nor the connection with the audience falter. This is a panto that will please even those that are not panto fans.  Just don’t bring the kids.

This production runs until 20 January 2013.

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