Fringe Box



Stage Dragon Review: Dick Whittington – Yvonne Arnaud Theatre

Published on: 20 Dec, 2021
Updated on: 27 Dec, 2021

By Ferenc Hepp – Photos Craig Fuller

Considering the current situation, it is always a bonus to be able to attend a live theatre production, so I was delighted to be able to watch Yvonne Arnaud’s pantomime, Dick Whittington, at the weekend.

Joanna Read

I agree with Joanna Read’s introduction in the programme, that “there’s nothing like the joy of families and friends coming together for a pantomime, all singing, shouting and laughing, and we really missed it in 2020.”

The theatre’s chief executive also directed this year’s production with some new arrivals in the cast, as well as the return of some very familiar faces to Guildford audiences.

The set design is as colourful as ever, with Fitzwarren’s shop front providing the backdrop to the opening number and the London skyline upstage, complemented perfectly by Nancy Surman’s costume designs.

Jake Ibelo is Tom the Cat & Robbie Scott as Dick Whittington

Watch out for Sally the Cook’s finale outfit which must have taken a lot of work to put together! Following the prologue where we meet Fairy Bowbells (Elizabeth Rowe), Dick (Robbie Scott) and Tomi the Cat (Jake Ibelo), the pace and energy picks up considerably and we are introduced to two of Guildford’s favourites who are back again this year, Peter Gordon (better known as PG) as Sally and Kit Hesketh-Harvey as King Rat.

You can sense the familiarity and the love regular Arnaud panto goers have for these two as PG gets a big cheer on his first appearance and Kit doesn’t need to encourage us to dislike his King Rat character, the booing is immediate!

Peter Gordon as Sally & Kit Hesketh-Harvey as King Rat

PG’s hilarious mannerisms and 15 years of panto experience shine through and keep us laughing during every scene he is in, especially with some of his ad-libs, and Kit’s somewhat camp but at the same time evil King Rat full of puns is absolutely perfect for panto. In fact, these two were very much the stars of the show, with the others either more used to TV work or younger and therefore less experienced.

James Merry from Cbeebies takes on the role of Idle Jack with plenty of smiles and enthusiasm. Scott, as the title character, is a recent graduate and you can tell he is still getting used to the magical world of panto and feels a little lost in places, but he does have good chemistry with Ibelo as his companion.

James Merry is Idle Jack here with Peter Gordon as Sally

Halfway into Act One the pace drops somewhat, the slosh scene needs to be messier, but then it gets going again with the group number Don’t Stop Believin’.

A lot of the musical numbers are old classics, such as Go West by the Pet Shop Boys which closes Act One, so that’s great for my generation but not sure if any of the children would be able to sing along to it.

The Ensemble sing a sea shanty

Act Two has the energy, pace and group numbers, slightly lacking in Act One, and opens with a sea shanty aboard the ship.

Maya Elliott as Alice Fitzwarren, a fiery, hardworking shop owner and businesswoman

There is a well-choreographed UV scene for the younger members of the audience and the always highly anticipated 12 Days of Christmas which is as hilarious and chaotic as ever, however, this year there is a twist as this becomes “12 Days of Lockdown” with items thrown in such as an oversized mask, six lateral flow tests and a huge bottle of hand sanitiser.

There is certainly no shortage of current themes, as booster jabs, illicit parties and flats being redecorated all get a mention along the way. The leads are brilliantly supported by the ensemble, who are all final year students at Guildford School of Acting with plenty of energy.

Let’s hope that performances can continue this year, as the venue is doing everything they can to keep audiences safe, and there is something for everyone in this production. So if you have been missing Dick, do book your tickets, head down to the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre and join in the festive fun!

Dick Whittington runs until Sunday 9 January and tickets are available via:

Share This Post

Leave a Comment

Please see our comments policy. All comments are moderated and may take time to appear.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *