Cambridge Arts Theatre, Cambridge – until Sunday 8th January 2023
Reviewed by Steph Lott
Once again, it’s pantomime season! It was wonderful to join an enthusiastic and excited audience for Cambridge Art Theatre’s production of Dick Whittington and His Cat. This is a fun, vibrant and entertaining show, full of glitz, tradition and dodgy jokes. At the start of the show Dave Murphy, Chief Executive of the Cambridge Arts Theatre, and producer of the show, gave a heart-warming introduction to the performance and talked about the charities that have benefitted from funds raised from previous panto performances. He asked the audience to “go ballistic”, which we did, at the many opportunities to boo and cheer, to show our appreciation of a wonderful family show.
This production has a very strong cast who are skilfully directed by Michael Gattrell. The show ticks all the boxes for a great traditional piece of family entertainment.
Of course, we must have a pantomime dame and Matt Crosby as Sarah the Cook was superb, possibly even better that he was as Widow Twankey last year. He executes everything with perfect comic timing and a charming sauciness, clad in a splendid array of wigs and dresses, and a set of enormous eye lashes. Rolan Bell’s performance as King Rat is just as outstanding. He’s all velvet-voiced villain as he sings “Let’s Get This Party Started” with his fellow rats. He also has an excellent evil laugh! It’s no wonder that he won the award for “Best Villain” at the Pantomime Awards 2022.
A special mention must be made of Adrian Grove. I don’t want to say too much as I don’t want to give anything away but boy! I’ll just say that he earns his crust.
And we must not forget the ensemble. They really were excellent, bringing the stage alive in each of the full ensemble numbers, accompanied by music from a live four-piece pit band (Musical Director Dean McDermott). I was impressed at how well all the performers could sing play and dance, given that it was a pantomime!
I want to give another special mention to the script. Once again, writer Al Lockhart-Morley has done a fabulous job. What I loved about it was that it was really funny, with some innuendo for the adults but it didn’t ever become too knowing or smutty. We were given a never-ending stream of the worst best kind of puns, plays on words and Christmas cracker jokes, which really are my favourite. We didn’t stop laughing the whole way through, both at the script but also at some great slapstick. The scene in the ship’s galley, when Sarah the Cook and Silly Billie (played by Nichole Bird) are haplessly trying to make dinner had us crying with laughter at their antics. It’s also the anticipation at knowing what’s going to come that I think is a large part of the pleasure of pantomime.
I loved everything about this show. From start to finish it never ceased to entertain both myself and everyone else in the audience, both young and old. This show is brilliant entertainment for all the family, embracing every well-loved panto tradition. It’s slick and full of laughs and there are some seriously talented players. What better way to keep the dark damp evenings at bay and get ready for Christmas.