Olivia Rook, Critics’ Circle Editor
Famed for its inside jokes and familiar faces, Kenneth Alan Taylor is back for another year (his 32nd with Nottingham Playhouse) to direct the fantastic Dick Whittington: a pantomime which is a delight for both the eyes and the ears! Several Critics’ Circle contributors have drawn attention to the dazzling scenery and costume designs in their reviews, the most impressive being the outfits of the two dames Sarah the Cook (John Elkington) and Florrie Fitzwarren (Anthony Hoggard) as they go through a series of costume changes, much to the delight and enthusiastic applause of the audience! Slightly divisive has been the choice to make their top number ‘Feeling Hot Hot Hot’ a feature which runs throughout the show. At one stage, it was sung on a loop perhaps five or six times, so much so that I feared my hands were going to fall off from clapping! Undeniably, however, the panto manages to include all audience members, young and old, in their festive cheer – despite the fact that for a large portion of the panto they find themselves shipwrecked in Rio! Members of Critics’ Circle, whether this is their first panto with the Nottingham Playhouse (it is mine!) or, like Zoe’s, their 17th, have expressed a fondness for the actors and their connection to Nottingham, and are looking forward to what Kenneth will put on for us next year!
Elodie Fleet – Poem
Dick Whittington: A timeless tale,
Nottingham Playhouse didn’t fail.
Though a rather subdued climax,
There wasn’t anything else it lacked.
With classic humour and interactive songs throughout.
Thoroughly entertaining without a doubt.
The stage transformed to a magical land,
With amazing backdrops and props ever so grand.
The actors were astounding the whole way through,
It appeared there wasn’t anything they could not do.
From retrieving lost wigs to jesting with fans,
It was clear it was a cast full of old hands.
This one I would definitely recommend,
It’ll leave you laughing right till the very end!
Morris Findley – Video Review
Is it Christmas without the panto? Alice Malyon – Review
I have a resounding and definite answer to the title question. My Christmas just wouldn’t be the same without Playhouse’s Christmas panto. I’ve been going with the same group of people for over ten years, that is no exaggeration, and it has held its place as a key event in my calendar for all that time. I remain just as excited about the warm familiarity, glittery scenery and cheerful characters as I’ve ever been. I know all the jokes, I recognise most of the actors, but that is part of the joy.
This year’s panto – Dick Whittington – was no different. I’ll be honest and confess that the plot was a little bizarre, but cheering when the good guys entered and booing when the bad guys came on was sufficient entertainment. We had a laugh in our private box as we giggled at the physical comedy, laughed at the innuendos and roared at the in-jokes. There’s one about Beeston that never gets old.
The costumes were hilarious works of art, as per usual, and I did sit back in wonder and admire the craftsmanship. The set was bold, colourful and adorned in buckets of glitter; it provided a splendid backdrop to the action. The acting was melodramatic and evidently geared towards getting the laughs but I wouldn’t have it any other way. There’s nothing worse than comic actors who take themselves too seriously. The lighting was gorgeous, colourful and bold, and the music and dancing was delightful as ever. In fact, I feel as fond of the band as I do of the actors. They never change.
Overall, I must finish by saying that I adored it and would recommend it to anyone and everyone. Life can seem blue and miserable in the winter and there’s nothing like the panto to remind you of the simple joy in spending time with loved ones under a warm roof filled with laughter and happiness. The panto makes Christmas.
Poppy Cook – Review
I had a lovely evening watching this year’s pantomime, Dick Whittington. I was particularly looking forward to the show as I vividly remember seeing it at the Nottingham Playhouse as a child and it was the best panto I’d ever seen.
I love the magic and sparkle of pantomime and the happiness it brings to an audience; this year was no different. There was a mixture of current chart songs, musical theatre songs and some older tunes, so something for everyone to enjoy. Similarly, there was humour for those of all ages. All in all, the panto was very entertaining and I would definitely see it again.
Unlike the usual Nottingham Playhouse panto, I found this year’s set to be a little underwhelming. It was glittery, but there was nowhere near as much as in previous years. I suppose this was because Dick Whittington is not a princess story; nevertheless, I thought the set could have had a bit more sparkle. Additionally, I found some of the finale costumes disappointing this year. Usually packed with sequins galore, there were some outfits this year that didn’t seem to fit with the others. The costume department did a tremendous job on the large number of the dames’ fancy frocks, but there were a couple of characters left without a sparkly number to dance in.
I did enjoy the pantomime, but personally I thought last year’s was funnier and generally left me a bit more in the festive spirit. Still, it’s not one to miss!
Come and see Dick Whittington – Liam O’Donnell – Review
Wow! What an amazing show. The storyline was great and it was very clever how they put in a lot of entertaining jokes for both kids and adults. My favourite character from the entire pantomime was the mother of Dick Whittington, Sarah the Cook, as she told most of the jokes and sang lots of songs.
My Favourite Moment
My favourite moment of the whole show was when they repeated the same ending of the song about six times – everyone loved it so much.
Below are the characters of the pantomime:
Kevin McGowan/King Rat, he was the bad guy in the play as he wanted to take over London with his evil menacing rats.
Rebecca Little/Fairy Bowbells, I think she was just in the play to annoy King Rat because she kept getting mixed up with all the other fairy tales, for example, she introduced Jack and the Beanstalk: ‘I have got to save Jack from the beanstalk.’
Tim Frater/Dick Wittington, the star of the show always looking for Tallulah the cat, hoping to get rich one day.
Jasmin White/Tallulah the cat, showing off her flexibility and only saying one word, ‘MEOW!’ she is constantly chasing after the rats to help save the day.
Matthew Chase/Jack (Dick Wittington’s best friend), he is always there for Dick and he plays a great role and tells some very funny jokes.
Natalie Taylor Gray/Alice (the girlfriend of Dick Wittington), no matter what Dick Wittington did, she would follow, because she wants to spend the rest of her life with him.
Anthony Hoggard/Florrie Fitzwarren, she is one of the funniest characters in the whole show, telling some great jokes. Her costumes throughout the show had a round loop around the waist. Even when her character was washed up onto the shore, she still ended up wearing a net around her waist.
John Elkington/Sarah the Cook, she was my favourite character in the whole show. The way she told jokes and performed her role was absolutely hilarious. She appeared in most of the show and the songs that she sung were so funny.
I think that this is a really, really, really funny show! It is a “must see”, so go down and book your ticket for Dick Whittington… you won’t be disappointed.
Dick Whittington – a clean masterpiece or a bed full of rats? Evan Gwynne – Review
This is my review of the pantomime, Dick Whittington. Oh yes it is.
While this might be a little biased, simply because this is the kind of comedy that I actually laugh at, I really liked the panto. Of course, it wasn’t perfect, as I feel it is best suited for a slightly older audience and really only makes sense if you went to see last year’s panto.
First, they decided to use the same actors from last year’s panto for the main characters. Personally, I really liked this choice. It did mean they used some of the old jokes, even going so far as to say “we’re gonna use all last year’s jokes again”, but I think it gave the pantomime a familiar atmosphere.
Also, something I’m not really concerned by is that there was a lot of dancing in this one, compared to Sleeping Beauty. I’m not into dancing myself, so it is difficult to really give an opinion on it.
I think the storyline was a little… loose. Loose as in not strung together very well, if that makes sense. The villain was to blame for that. Now, he wasn’t a bad character at all; actually, in my opinion, he was one of the best characters in the play. But, attempting not to spoil things here, he pretty much says “oh this guy’s cat ruined my plan, I’m going to get him”. It sort of broke the pace of the play, without having a good reason.
Wow… This is really hard to do in 300 words or less. Probably because I’m trying to be comical, fitting the panto theme.
Oh No They Didn’t! Abigail Lawrence – Review
On the 28th of December, the pantomime Dick Whittington opened at Nottingham Playhouse. The story of Dick Whittington in theory is pretty simple – a poor man seeking his fortune in London. He is accompanied by his friend Jack, mother Sarah and his cat Tallulah. Of course, there is the standard pantomime villain who has a grudge against the protagonist, and a love story between Dick and a character called Alice – I think the ending could be worked out by many people. That said, it was still a fun production.
The set changed pretty frequently and provided a backdrop for the various scenes which included Brazil, the ocean, a ship and an ‘Emporium’. The set design was great, not only eye catching, but full of detail which made the scenes more intense and vivid. The strongest performances from the cast were given by John Elkington (Sarah) and Tim Frater (Dick). I felt Tim was very energetic despite the demanding nature of acting, singing and dancing. He was a strong lead who perfected the innocent personality I expected Dick to have. John embodied the pantomime dame to a T; he had good comedic timing and was spontaneously funny. This helped to detract from the recycled, but popular, jokes that were included. The pantomime was relevant to a Nottingham audience, though a pantomime appeals to a wide range of people anyway!
Overall, I enjoyed the performance, it was lively and was made all the better due to the band and the dancers. They helped make the pantomime look polished. I would recommend predominantly young people (below 10) see this piece. Although some of the jokes and innuendos helped the play feel more appealing to an older audience, in places it was a bit childish!
Zoe Pritchard-Tye – Review
This is my 17th Nottingham Playhouse pantomime, and something I really look forward to seeing. The thing I look out for most is my Aunty Helen’s costumes, as the designer Tim Meacock always creates impressive and imaginative costume designs.
My firm favourites are John Elkington, Tim Frater and Anthony Hoggard – this year as Sarah the Cook, Dick Whittington and Florrie Fitzwarren. It was also good to see the rabbits back this year! Matthew Chase as Jack and Tallulah the bendy cat (played by Jasmine White) were my favourite new cast members. Rebecca Little made a brilliantly forgetful Fairy Bowbells, whilst Alice was played by Natalie Taylor Gary, and Kevin McGowan got plenty of boos as a menacing King Rat.
I always look forward to the music, and this year Run by Snow Patrol was a fantastic anthem, with lines distributed among the cast in the same way I remember Take That’s ‘Shine’ was in a previous pantomime. The ship wreck, swimming sequence and the spinning beds were all highlights for me, and the ‘Feeling Hot Hot Hot’ chorus had everyone up on their feet!
Thank you Kenneth Alan Taylor and Nottingham Playhouse for a great Dick Whittington! 5 stars!
Lucy Wakefield – Visual Review
To Panto or not to Panto? That is the question! Harry Kenyon – Review
On Saturday the 28th of November, Critics’ Circle went to see Dick Whittington, directed by the esteemed Kenneth Alan Taylor. The story follows Dick, his family, and his cat as they travel to London to seek fortune and find streets paved with gold. However, on their journey they encounter both friends and foes who take them off course on a wild and dangerous adventure.
The set was incredibly varied and included some beautiful and carefully detailed scenes. My favourite was a cross-section of a ship, allowing the audience a view into the dorms of the boat. The actors played around with this set to great comedic effect. All of the actors’ performances were strong, but those who shone brightest were the main dame John Elkington as Sarah the Cook and Anthony Hoggard, the other dame, as Florrie Fitzwarren. They both added another layer of comedy and absurdity to the play and were loved by all who watched them. Coupled with their quick improvisation they were able to achieve a really lively atmosphere. The music was well placed in the play and the audience were encouraged to sing-along and interact throughout the show.
So, in conclusion, be prepared to sing songs over and over, and get ready to laugh at the wonderful events, references, and jokes throughout the play. A fun watch for all ages.
How witty was Dick Wittington? Holly Jackson – Review
The Playhouse pantomime, as usual, didn’t fail to disappoint. This year it explored the story of Dick Wittington and his journey accompanied by his friends and family, including his cat Tallulah. He defeats the evil King Rat and foils his plan to take over London, fulfilling the bells’ prophecy that he will become Lord Mayor of London.
The set was impressive, with many fast and extreme scene changes, transforming the setting effectively. The stage was full of colour and grandeur and the set was very well constructed. The lighting always gave the correct mood, and the intensity of either brightness or dark instantly created a distinct atmosphere. The costumes, too, were wonderfully wacky and bright.
The music was exciting and engaging, emphasising every dramatic or amusing moment, and allowed the songs to have a lot of impact. The dancing was all very good; the chorus girls backed the show strongly and the routines were unique and brilliantly choreographed.
Many lines got a lot of laughter, largely thanks to their delivery from enthusiastic performers and because the traditional jokes are known by anyone who has been to a Playhouse pantomime before.
We were, unusually, transported to tropical Rio de Janeiro, not the most festive and Christmassy of places, but a nice salute to the approaching events of 2016.
It was light, uplifting and fun, and the performers truly managed to entertain the whole audience, and got a very good response from them. It is enjoyable for the entire family and people of all ages. This simple story is a great Christmas treat!
Georgie Daunt – Review
What a night! Once again Nottingham Playhouse has managed to put on an amazing panto. With a sold out audience, there didn’t seem to be a single person who wasn’t enjoying him or herself the entire way through. The children’s comedy was intertwined nicely with jokes aimed at an older audience to ensure that everyone enjoyed the play.
I think that the reason I always enjoy the pantomimes at Nottingham Playhouse is due to the relationship between the actors and the audience. There is a certain connection I’ve always felt with the actors that makes the gags even funnier, especially the ones that we all know and recognise from previous years.
As usual the set and costumes were all magnificent, with sparkles everywhere and many, many dame costumes for both John Elkington and Anthony Hoggard to show off.
There was a nice mix of songs, with a couple of well-known old ones mixed in with many new ones. The repetition of ‘Feeling Hot Hot Hot’ certainly looked it, but the actors and the band all did a fantastic job to keep going as the audience shouted for more again and again.
The chorus of young dancers all did a great job, they managed to master their complicated dance routines and kept smiling throughout. They kept the scene changes fun and interesting to watch.
Overall Dick Whittington was an incredible production that put the audience in fits of laughter and left everyone in good spirits; and me in a very Christmassy mood!
Rotten Rats! Chloe Brearley – Review
I went to Nottingham Playhouse with Critics’ Circle to see Dick Whittington, the pantomime.
The pantomime was fantastic and I really enjoyed it. It was very entertaining for the audience and it was really funny. I would give it 4 out of 5 stars because I thought the actors were brilliant. The actors played good parts and all roles had lots of speaking parts. I thought King Rat had a huge part and was one of the strongest actors because he played a wicked villain really well. There was one scene in particular which I really enjoyed where the rats were in the shop – King Rat had let them out – and Tallulah the cat was trying to catch them. When the audience saw King Rat they booed!
Dick Whittington’s cat was very clever. She knew her way, and she helped Dick Whittington on his journey to escape London.
The songs were very catchy and this meant the audience could sing along to the lyrics.
The costumes were different, some more extravagant than others. Some characters had ripped clothes in the second scene due to the shipwreck; however most of the characters wore glamorous, colourful and elegant costumes throughout the panto.
The setting was amazing because it was colourful and they had artistic backgrounds. A lot of the scenes had various props too.
I would recommend the pantomime to my family and friends, and I would love to see it again!
Dick Whittington – is he beyond his wits? Louisa Barton – Review
This year’s pantomime at Nottingham Playhouse was Dick Whittington and, in my opinion, it topped last year’s, raising the bar to a new level. I do, however, have some criticism.
Honestly, I think it’s a great panto, but it just lacked an obvious story. There were plenty of jokes and strong characters, but the plot was not very clear. I believe that the main reason for this is the confused fairy that popped up in almost every scene where King Rat informed the audience of his “great plan”. This put me off the plot as she interrupted King Rat explaining what was happening, and going to happen. Due to this, the plot did not make sense.
While I would go and see it again, I have one personal improvement, and that is to not have a loop of the song ‘Feeling Hot Hot Hot’. Mainly, this improvement is here because there was a lot of clapping and I could not stop my hands from vibrating for what felt like at least half an hour. This really got on my nerves, as there was more clapping after this particular song. Despite this criticism, the pantomime was still very fun to watch.
Carys Brown – Review
While Dick Whittington isn’t the usual choice for a Christmas panto, the team at Nottingham Playhouse didn’t fail to go all out with sparkly sets, extravagant costumes and camp song and dance numbers. The festive atmosphere and the good laughs are sure to fill the auditorium – it really is for everyone in the family.
The story begins in ‘London Town’, with a group of dancing girls kicking off the panto. Tim Frater is the chipper and ambitious Dick, who sets off on his adventure to find wealth and gold and to get the girl, Alice, played by Natalie Taylor Grey. He is introduced along with his cat Tallulah – a beautiful contortionist dressed in all black with cat ears; not quite the panto horse type costume I was expecting, but it was magical to watch!
While it was a little slow getting started, the stunning, surprising and sometimes mind boggling set designs and scenery changes from pirate ships to beaches truly felt like a different world within the theatre. The actors were all so lively and joyful which kept a much needed energy right the way through. And no one could forget the two stunning pantomime dames – Sarah the Cook (John Elkington), and Florrie Fitzwarren (Antony Hoggard), who complimented rather than competed with each other as fabulous and hilarious ladies.
The spectacular singing and dancing, gorgeous and glittering set design and terrible but fun gags will leave you in good spirits and definitely added a feeling of festive cheer buzzing in the air afterwards!
Alex Clarke – Review
Throughout the holiday season the Nottingham Playhouse are showing Dick Whittington, a pantomime based around the old English folklore regarding Richard Whittington (wealthy merchant and later Lord Mayor of London) and his cat Tallulah. Having said that, I wouldn’t recommend this for anyone desiring to brush up on that fascinating tale because, well, this is a pantomime after all.
Dick Whittington does, however, tick all the boxes when it comes to a good pantomime. I felt close to the dame and found him funny without it feeling like he was trying to get in constant jokes. The actors all seemed likeable, bar one unfortunate soul that was either seemingly left with all the bad jokes in the script or hadn’t quite mastered their delivery yet, and the performance was well done without looking forced.
The songs, for the most part, engaged the audience well and lightened the mood – with even some unexpected Snow Patrol fitting in at one point! The cast did butcher a couple of songs, but the fact that they fitted in so many recognisable songs made up for this. One of the odder musical numbers felt like it was taking away from the experience when it insisted the audience join in, even for the twelfth encore of the hideously repetitive chant…
Overall, I’d say that Dick Whittington was a good pantomime that did everything it was supposed to do.
Ellie Bowe – Review
The Playhouse’s Christmas pantomime, Dick Whittington, certainly had us all “bobbing up and down like this”, as they kicked off their opening night with a bang. The sound of laughter filled our ears from beginning to end and not a single frown was in sight as the energetic cast bounded across the stage, putting us all in the festive spirit in late November. Tim Frater perfectly portrayed the lively character of Dick Whittington, with a warm and friendly feel about him as he took his lead role in the show. John Elkington as Sarah the Cook and Anthony Hoggard as Florrie definitely gave the panto a humorous touch, arriving at each new setting in an ever more extravagant outfit. The cast is completed by Jack, Dick Whittington’s best friend, Bowbells, a forgetful fairy, Alice, King Rat and Tallulah, Dick’s Cat. This is an exciting Christmas treat, sure to put all the family in the mood for Christmas.
Smiles All Round – Maddy Chapman Review
The Playhouse pantomime kicks off my Christmas again and this year Dick Whittington took to the stage in another fun, glittery, musical production. This story follows Whittington and his friends as they chase fortune across the world in a great adventure at sea. Of course the show is another of Kenneth Alan Taylor’s magical pantos which never fail to fill the theatre with gleaming faces and roaring laughter.
Like every year the cast was packed with talent, each member capturing the energy and spirit of a Playhouse pantomime. I particularly enjoyed the casting of a contortionist, Jasmine White, as Whittington’s Cat, adding a very innovative and impressive element. And I must mention that John Elkington portrayed the perfect panto dame for yet another year, creating moments of natural comedy with the audience and cast, separate to the script, that make the pantomime so entertaining.
Furthermore, the set, costume and props were outstanding for this production. The vast variety of costumes used was incredible and each piece had been perfectly crafted for the character and scene, often adding to the friendly comedy. The set was, as always, plastered in glitter creating a magical, sparkling stage around the actors, adding to the gleeful atmosphere.
One fault of the production, however, was that I felt there were a lack of festive references. The show rarely related to Christmas at all, instead showing scenes of Brazilian carnivals, and I returned from the play feeling happy but not at all festive. Also this year the script seemed to lack original material, re-using jokes like pantos should but rarely bringing any new entertaining ones. It was a perfect classic pantomime but needed a few new twists to stop each year’s shows merging into one.
Overall, if you want an evening guaranteed to spread a smile across your face and a jig in your step, make sure you see Dick Whittington this Christmas!
Maisie Lee Walker – Review
It’s never Christmas until you’ve seen the pantomime, and last night’s performance of Dick Whittington was absolutely fabulous; with glitter, glamorous costumes and groan-worthy jokes. I wholeheartedly enjoyed booing the Rat King, although I was rather envious of his fabulous long black sequinned coat and generally gorgeous outfit. The jokes that, if repeated many times anywhere else would be tired, had me laughing along and clapping from my seat. The costumes, as we’ve come to expect from the Playhouse Pantomime, became increasingly glittery, right up until the inevitable wedding scene at the end where the entire cast were bedecked in scarlet, gold and white.
Congratulations to the designers, who created several incredible sets including a ship that fell apart in the impressive shipwreck scene, an emporium that opened up to reveal shelves complete with actual products, and several beautiful, sparkling backdrops. One of the backdrops had a painted chair which was sat on by Sarah the Cook (John Elikington) to raucous laughter and applause.
I’d definitely recommend this show to everyone. Having claimed in recent years that I was ‘too old’ to go and visit the pantomime, I went last night not expecting to enjoy myself as much as I did. However, it was a great night and I had a brilliant time with my friends! I think that now I can get properly into the Christmas spirit, even though it’s only November. Good job Nottingham Playhouse!
Everything a pantomime should be! Sophie Boettge – Review
Slapstick, singing and everyone up on their feet? Yes, that’s right, the annual pantomime has hit the Playhouse, just in time for Christmas! Dick Whittington seems to bring exactly what’s needed for a good panto, having something for everyone and leaving the whole family laughing. We meet good-natured Dick Whittington in London where he tries to earn a bit of money with his faithful friend, Jack, his good mother, Sarah the Cook, and loyal cat, Tallulah. Dick then gets to meet the love of his life, Alice, and her mother. But Dick’s plans are put on hold when the villainous King Rat banishes all cats and infects London with a plague of rats (boo!). And with the typical fairy of the story confused to which fairy tale she’s even in, Dick’s taken on a wild journey with adventures across seas, kidnapping and even saving London (woo!)
In true panto style the evening was entertaining for people of all ages – with songs grandparents could enjoy with their grandkids, jokes only kids could get and jokes only for the adults. Writer and director, Kenneth Alan Taylor has brought an old story to the festive pantomime season and has really involved the audience. Each actor adopted a traditional panto style, adding a humorous feeling to the evening. The fourth wall was almost non-existent, as it should be, so a playful relationship developed between the stage and the audience, something that was heightened when some of the smaller members of the audience were treated lovingly by Sarah the Cook on stage. The sets were elaborate to say the least; with the vibrant colours and seamless yet playful transitions, the audience was transported to the tropical places shown on stage. The job of comically styling the two men (or shall I say mothers?) was wonderfully executed and we were shown an array of dresses ranging from the glamorous cook, to a dress fit for a carnival. Furthermore, the chorus girls did a wonderful job at adding to the playful atmosphere and the scenery with their fun dancing, all to the tune of the talented musical band.
I personally found the evening delightful! Dick Whittington was, of course, not a night of high-end drama, but it had no intention of being so. The take on the classic pantomime was much appreciated; with a twist on the fairy, there being no prince or magical castle but a panto based on an old folk story, we all got to see something new this Christmas season. Dick Whittington still kept what makes pantomimes great, however, with men in dresses, timeless comedy, heroes we’re rooting for and a villain we’re urging to lose. From the acting to the fifth encore of a song we’re still singing, it’s a must-see for all families this season.
Photography by Robert Day.