Review: Dick Whittington The Rock ‘n’ Roll Panto (After Dark) at Stafford Gatehouse

Writer: Peter Rowe

Director: Rob Salmon

Panto season is in its final few days, but this is the time when Stafford Gatehouse hosts its adult only performances of their annual panto, this year being Dick Whittington. Things certainly go a bit more post-watershed.

Writer Peter Rowe creates a plot full of traditional panto moments including plenty of audience participation and plenty of crude innuendos. The title character’s name is one that’s used very heavily throughout.  King Rat kidnapping Alice Fitzwarren forms the majority of the second half, rather than the more traditional plot which keeps it something different to what may have been seen before.

As a Rock ‘n’ Roll pantomime, music is very prominent throughout. There’s a nice mixture of new and old rock and roll hits that will be sure to entertain the older boys and girls, while also being upbeat enough to keep the younger members of the audience, entertained.

However, this performance certainly wasn’t one for the younger members of the audience. This special performance was strictly for adults only. The jokes were not only turned up, but there were pranks galore between the cast and few extra props too.

Peter Manchester’s Sarah The Cook was the driving force between a lot of the unplanned moments. I am sure Manchester was delighted to find an actor as an audience member to refer back to throughout and even at one point had the audience member doing the sound effects when an onstage cue was missed.   Laura Sillett also enjoys the chance to change things up a bit with her props, particularly a warm pizza delivered on stage.

There’s a great sense of teamwork and dedication from the cast and crew members to work together to pull off this unique and enjoyable performance while keeping as close to the script as possible. Even the crew do their best to help keep the laughs coming from showing being dressed in only slightly more than their birthday suits and also appearing in set pieces they really shouldn’t be in.

However, the cast isn’t just good at making this performance hugely entertaining, after all this special after dark edition is only performed twice in its whole run. Thomas Wolstenholme is a really entertaining but also cheeky and cunning King Rat.  Guy Freeman’s lovable Billy is charming yet very geeky and in a way, you may end up wishing he got his happily ever after rather than Max Runham who is the leading man Dick Whittington. Runham is a very charming, cheeky and very bouncy.  Lana Walker is also lovely as a cockney edition of Fairy Bow Bells.

The panto itself is a charming traditional panto but this special performance just for the adults is extremely funny and really emphasises theatre’s greatest asset; no production is the same. Featuring a rock and roll soundtrack, a multi-talented cast that multi-roll throughout as the backing band and their characters it is a very entertaining performance that keeps you laughing right to the final bells toll.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Theatre_Twittic_Value_For_Money_Three*Decision based on a ticket price of £17.50. For more info on this value for money rating please visit here: Introducing a new kind of rating

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