Cat’s amazing! Dick Whittington panto is purr-fect Christmas tonic

EVEN with a tightening of restrictions it’s started to feel a lot like Christmas; more so at least than 12 months ago.

The Millgate Arts Centre pantomime is back for one thing and after a booster jab, then laughter is surely the next best medicine.

There’s plenty of the latter available for audiences making the trip to Delph to watch Big Tiny’s production of Dick Whittington.

Sarah the Cook and Alderman Fitzwarren

It says everything when cast members from another pantomime are lapping up the mirth and merriment delivered by the seven-strong ensemble.

Dick Whittington’s arrival in Saddleworth is a belated one after coronavirus forced the late cancellation of last year’s show.

But it’s worth the wait, not least for the versatility of Ian Hayles, a dream Dame debut for Dom McChesney as Sarah the Cook and the all-round professionalism of Dan Wallage as hero Dick.

Ian Hayles and Hope Lavelle

Indeed, with a surfeit of songs, ensuring this classic tale of the boy done good sometimes feels akin to a musical, there’s room for Lauren Steele as Alice Fitzwarren and Hope Lavelle (Fairy Bow-Bells) to show off their vocal as well as acting talents.

Even Leni Murphy (named Pippen in our production-Dick’s cat) gets chance to clear her pipes with an unforgettable rendition of Memories, one Andrew Lloyd Webber would find hard to recognise.

All aboard the Saucy Sal

The line-up is completed by Queen Rat (Nancy Penvose) who does a suitably evil job of eliciting the necessary hissing and booing from youngsters quickly under the spell of panto magic.

Just who plays the Gorilla is open to debate but Hayles as Alderman Fitzwarren, Arthur the Postman, the Captain and the Sultan would be a good bet.

His four-in-one role is a gag running through this production written by Ben Richards and directed by Linda Hopkins.

A tongue twisting scene on the Saucy Sal and slapstick routine centring on his multiplicity of roles were highlights for this reviewer.

Lauren Steele as Alice Fitzwarren

No spoiler alerts here either but watch out for a late and all too brief appearance of a creature you wouldn’t want to find at the bottom of your garden!

And while pantomime and seriousness are rarely bedfellows, it is worth stating theatre bosses and the Big Tiny company have gone out of their way to create as safe an environment as possible to watch the show.

So, if you want some early Christmas cheer then Dick Whittington is just the ticket. The panto runs until December 31 and for availability visit www.millgateartscentre.co.uk

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