Monday, April 22

Dick Whittington – Altrincham Garrick Playhouse

Pantomime season is once more upon us, and the Garrick Playhouse in Altrincham is joining in the fun once more.  This year’s offering is Dick Whittington, the age old tale of a young man, seeking his fortune in London.  The Garrick have kept to the basics of the story with their own adaptations and as with any panto lots of modern and local references

The staging of the show is well done with a simple but effective design, excellent lighting effects and stunning costumes.  There are some sound issues with actors being hard to hear, especially when singing, but that could be first night technical hitches.

The actors are enthusiastic and generally perform well.  Shining stars are Dan Ellis, who also directs, as Idle Jack and Phil Edwards as Sarah the Cook.   The comedy roles allowing them both to show off their comic timing and ad-libbing skills, especially with both the audience and the occasional on-stage error.  Dan Ellis also has a physical magnetism and energy that makes him a natural with the audience. The two have worked together before and that shows in the natural chemistry between them.   Conor Collins is in fine form as the over-dramatic King Rat, with a speaking and singing voice to match their striking appearance.  He makes a glorious villain.  His counterpoint Bev Stuart-Cole’s Fairy Bow Bells is overly saccharine but engaging at the same time.

The other characters are less successful.  Ethan Beer’s Dick while pleasant, holds little of the charisma required and his singing voice does not suit the songs he is given.   Hannah Dorothy as Alice has a beautiful singing voice but also misses in the personality stakes.  This is much more an effect of the script than the competence of the actors.  Similar issues occur with Bill Platt’s Alderman Fitzwarren and Jamie King’s Cat.  The ensemble of youngsters are excellent though.  The book does hold some problems.  Parts, especially the introductions at the start, are disjointed and some of the jokes are overplayed.  Subtlety is never a part of pantomime but the repetition of the obvious becomes tiring.  However, Dan Ellis’ direction works miracles to create a vibrant show from the limitations of script and a small stage.

Pantomime is always subject to the vagaries of modern taste, here they try hard to find the right mix between traditional and modern.   In many areas it succeeds, in odd ones it fails.  But again, that is down to individual taste.  It is however, a vibrant and jolly production and worth taking the youngsters to see for that very British Christmas tradition of Pantomime.

Dick Whittington continues until 2nd January 2023,

Reviewer: Helen Jones

Reviewed: 9th December 2022

North West End UK Rating: ★★★★