Dick Whittington and his Cat, Wilton’s Music Hall
Wilton’s Music Hall has waited an awfully long time for its first ever pantomime — it’s been standing in London’s East End since the 1690s — considering it feels almost specially designed to accommodate one. This production of Dick Whittington is the realisation of a long-held dream for British Music Hall Society president Roy Hudd, who fell in love many years ago with its fantastic, castle-like atmosphere. It blends perfectly with Mark Hinton’s set, like a medieval pop-up book, and we think it’s been well worth the wait.
Hudd, who penned the script, and Debbie Flitcroft, who directs, are something of a panto power-couple: this production is her fourteenth, but it’s her first time directing Hudd. He’s entrancing in his dame debut as Sarah the Cook, or “the Nigella of New Cross”, as she introduces herself, rouged and simpering, before lobbing chocolate coins and packets of hula hoops — and eggs! — at a delighted audience.
Dick Whittington’s action centres on a plague of rats, headed by Ronaldo Ratface (Gareth Davies) taking over London, ultimately to be defeated by the eponymous hero (Josh Tevendale) and his trusty cat Tommy (Steven Hardcastle). Davies’s rat king is less an uber-villain and more a lovable rogue: we can’t help wishing him every success with his Mayor of London campaign designed to “knock Boris off his Santander cycle”.
This production is only lightly garnished throughout with touches of topicality and modernity: instead of a star, the Spirit of the City (Nicole Davis) waves a wand topped with a glittering London Underground logo. These contemporary tweaks are witty, on point, and deliberately subtle — Hudd and Flitcroft have not undertaken to modernise the pantomime genre, and the one they deliver is steeped in history, staunchly traditional and yet singing, dancing and sparklingly alive.
By Rosalind Stone
Dick Whittington and his Cat runs at Wilton’s Music Hall, 1 Graces Alley E1 8JB, until 31 December. Tickets £15-£30. Londonist saw this production on a complimentary ticket.