They’re back! And how!
I have been eagerly anticipating the return of the traditional Wight Strollers pantomime after an enforced two year hiatus, and they didn’t disappoint with a show packed full of starring performances, slick one liners, songs and the odd speck of smut (well, with a Dick in the title, what do you expect?).
From the start we were treated to a brilliant performance: Michael Mullin brought us a suitably sneering and dastardly King Rat who fully deserved every one of the loud boos he received: Michael’s extensive stage experience and great comic timing was evident as he skilfully worked the audience.
Equally skilful and experienced was Sarah Scotcher as Fairy Bowbells, counterpointing Rat’s evilness with her own brand of goodness which was not quite as squeaky-clean as you might expect of an innocent fairy. The twinkle in her eye when she was delivering (and singing) some of the naughtiest lines in the show was delightful.
Alderman Fitzwarren, played by Tim Smith, was a wonderful foil to the traditional panto dame: John Woodford camped it up beautifully as Polly Pudding the cook, whose wide ranging taste in men was rivalled only by her eclectic cake recipes which outdid Dibley’s Leticia Cropley for sheer unappetising genius.
Another perfectly cast comic duo were David Kast and Andy Ball as the Captain of the ‘Windy Passage’ and his First Mate, who provided innuendos and double entendres galore. Even the supporting roles of Neptune, Princess Marina and the Sultan and Sultana of Morocco were in the safe and experienced (and hilarious) hands of Patrick Barry, Izzy Park and Elisa Jones, all of whom shone.
Smudge the Cat was in a class of her own and very nearly stole every scene she was in. Izzi Rudd’s beautiful use of physical theatre to portray the litheness of the animal was rivalled only in her perfect sense of comic timing as she interrupted her master or, when ignored, sat grooming herself.
The romantic leads too benefitted from the talent and experience of the actors. Emily Scotcher as Alice Fitzwarren and Ches Checkley-Hill as Dick Whittington were perfectly cast, their singing voices harmonised beautifully and their sheer delight in finding themselves back on stage after so long was evident.
As was the enjoyment of the amazing ensemble and dance group, always the stalwart of Strollers productions. So many talented singers and dancers sharing the stage, synchronising and harmonising movement and voice was a testament to the hours of rehearsal time and the skill of the performers. We saw townspeople, Moroccan dancers, mermaids and fish, rats and comic customers at Aldi-man’s shop. Each individual performance contributed to the audience’s enjoyment of the show, which was enhanced by the band who not only accompanied every song and dance routine but did so suitably attired…
For me however, the stars of the show were the diminutive drunken sailors whose combined ages would not have made the age of any of the adult leads. It is now a feature of the Strollers to encourage young performers, but this group aged from just four years old were exceptional: confident and just adorable. With youngsters like these, the future of the Wight Strollers is not in doubt – they are already nurturing their future stars.
‘Dick Whittington’ returns to the stage at Medina Theatre for two more shows on Saturday 26th February at 2.30pm and 7.30pm. I hear there are still a few seats left so grab your ticket while you can by calling 01983 823884 or by visiting www.medinatheatre.co.uk.
Take my advice – if you are looking for a few hours of laughter and fun, you’ll be in exactly the right place!