REVIEW: The Florians' Dick Whittington
The Florians Theatre
IN a year when a number of Highland companies have opted to make Dick Whittington their panto choice, Inverness drama club the Florians turn again to a version previously staged some 20 years ago,
What worked then, works again, augmented by a few more contemporary tweaks in some of the gags and musical numbers.
Trevor Nicol’s script does edge towards being overlong, but provides all the ingredients necessary for panto fun — a bit of romance, songs, magic and painful puns, of course. There is one in the cooking sketch which seems about as shameless as they come — until it gets topped by another just a few seconds later.
It is all in good fun though and Nicholas Nicol, who also directs, is always good value as the dame, Sara Sidebottom, bringing a bit of Gavin and Stacy Welshness to the stage, while Cynthia Nicol’s costume design always ensures Sara is badly dressed for every occasion.
As his comedy sidekick, Joshua McDiarmid is an energetic and likeable Idle Jack, keeping the audience involved with a running gag about a mysterious box, although the eventual revelation of its contents falls slightly flat.
Also keeping up the laugh quota are the hapless seafarers Captain Cockle, he of the eye-patch which randomly shifts from eye to eye between scenes, and his sidekick Mr Mussel ("he love the jobs you hate"), as played by Ashley Taylor and Benedict Donnelly. The duo are always welcome when they return to the action, even if a couple of their jokes are starting to get a bit creaky.
As King Rat, Steven Kelly is a villain that you can love to hate, giving his lines a scenery chewing relish benefitting the lord of a pack of rodents devastating London by munching everything they can get their teeth near. Though, as brought to life by the youngsters of the Junior Florians, his minions are more cute than terrifying, just possibly not as cute as Nina Thomson’s Charlie the Super Cat.
However, in a play where boys play girls and girls play boys, it does take a few minutes for it to sink in that the pirates played by females are actually female pirates, putting the lass in cutlass as proto-feminist buccaneers who only make the men walk the plank.
A Florians’ panto is a much cosier experience than the one along the riverside, and its intimacy makes it easy to overlook the odd fluffed line or lapse in diction or the obvious budget limitations.
And everyone in the audience gets a bonus sweetie. What more could you ask from a Christmas show?
•The Florians’ Dick Whittington continues until Saturday 13th December.