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 Connecting professional and amateur theatre in Newbury, West Berkshire and beyond

Oxford Playhouse - Dick Whittington

1st December 2006 to 14th January 2007.

From the Newbury Weekly News.

Really cool for cats

Former Blue Peter presenter directs a winner at the Oxford Playhouse

Dick Whittington, at the Oxford Playhouse, until January 14

The Oxford Playhouse pantomime this year, Dick Whittington, is a very slick, traditional production created by writer Phil Willmott and directed by former Blue Peter presenter Peter Duncan. His role as the UK's Chief Scout may have been instrumental in attracting a large party of Scouts to the performance I attended, an audience which was enthusiastic in singing and dancing along with the performers.

The artistic level of the show is incredibly high, with several knock-out sequences - one underwater when Dick encounters King Neptune, fluorescent fish swimming by, and later, on board a ship to Morocco, which founders in a effectively directed storm scene.

The pantomime has every base covered: familiar routines, catchy songs, and infectious, well-cast characters. Dick (Raj Ghatak) is boyband-handsome, Charlotte Warren cute as his girlfriend Alice; Joe Allen steals every second as Tommy "Yo dudes", the Theatre Cat, who was also a hit with my co-reviewers.

Gabrielle said: "my favourite character was Tommy, the Cat because he was really funny" while for Lizzie that "Tommy made me laugh because normally cats don't talk and dance and he was cool, and everything."

The Scottish pantomime dame (Simon Green) also came in for praise. Lizzie was impressed "when the Cook, Sarah, was around because she was really funny because she was actually a man" enjoying "her voice and everything, how she acts".

Lizzie "liked King Rat (William Kenning) singing Don't Stop Me Now" while Gabrielle enjoyed joining in with everyone shouting and booing Atticus Ratticus "cos he's bad and he tried to make people vote for him to be Mayor of London".

Lizzie also has high praise for the costumes, especially those worn by the Moroccans.

This is a fast-paced, entertaining show which successfully ticks every pantomime box. "Uncle" Darren Reeves and his musicians are so much better than piped alternatives.

The last word should be Lizzie's: "Dick Whittington is really good and funny and it's really not like any other pantomime. I saw it last year [at the Wycombe Swan] and there was no speaking cat, and he was not as cool."