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Dick Whittington - Royal and Derngate Review

"an uplifting triumph. It's stonking good fun."

Festive entertainment returns to Northampton's Royal and Derngate with this year's pantomime of Dick Whittington offering 2 hours of brilliant escapism that feels more timely than ever.

As soon as the curtain rises you're right away with the adventure and the mayhem that ensues along the way. We're in 14th century London with Dick Whittington who has come to seek his fortune. He meets members of the Fitzwarren family and falls madly in love with young Alice. Unfortunately for Londoners, the town is being overrun by rats who are led by the evil King Rat. It becomes Dick's destiny to stop King Rat and restore order in London by becoming the new Lord Mayor.

The company of Dick Whittington. Photo by Pamela Raith

The production right from the opening is wonderfully interactive with the usual pantomime breaking of the fourth wall. This allows for great hilarity when members of the company deliver lines directly to people including one gentleman who is singled out for some individual interaction. Phil Gallagher's Billy has a great greeting every time he enters that engages all the audience.

As we're swept along the adventure from London to Morocco and back again on the good ship Lollipop the sets designed by Helga Wood are dazzling as they glitter and shine with lighting provided by Alex Musgrave and sound by Tom Evans. It's the cartoonish design that allows for the right feel for the production of child-like timeless fun. 

Writer Paul Hendy litters the script with hilarity that the company has a blast with delivering or ad-libbing their own along the way. Many of those jokes come through the excellent Bob Golding as Dame Dolly. Golding is outstanding in delivery with an eye for comedy that is first-rate. Gallagher too has great comedy bones and interacts well with the audience and those around him.

Jessie Adams (Tommy The Cat), Phil Gallagher (Billy), Alex Lodge (Dick Whittington), and Bob Golding (Dame Dolly). Photo by Pamela Raith.

Alex Lodge is West End leading man quality and has a real boyish charm to his Dick. He has wicked fun alongside Dame Dolly and Billy and has a voice that could easily grace any of the top musicals. Lodge's performance is matched by love-interest Alice played by a delightful Anna Unwin. Unwin's energetic warmth makes her very watchable. 

Musicals are the main feature of the soundtrack for the production. We have Deborah Tracey's superbly fine voiced rap-tastic Fairy Bowbells delivering everything in the style of the 'Alexander Hamilton' number from Lin-Manuel Miranda's hit musical. There are numbers from Guys and Dolls, Les Miserables, Kinky Boots, and more. The numbers are performed by a great-sounding band under the musical direction of Gareth Ellis.

King Rat is portrayed by EastEnders star Ricky Champ. He combines menace with wildly over-the-top camp well but does feel a little underused. I wish he'd had more opportunities to strike a larger impression of evil.

Impressive choreography by Simon Hardwick is delivered by a youthful ensemble of 6 dancers who all have tremendous ability and make the dance numbers look effortless. Jessie Adams is another outstanding mover and brings Tommy the Cat to life with superb skill.

There is lots of fun and mayhem throughout and arguably the best scene is the 12 Days of Christmas, which has become a pantomime staple. Here it's delivered by Golding, Gallagher, and Lodge and the use of custard pies and water guns allows for much hilarity. That joy is infectious and makes the entire evening an uplifting triumph. It's stonking good fun.

Dick Whittington continues at Royal and Derngate until Sunday 2nd January 2022. Tickets are available from

The company of Dick Whittington. Photo by Pamela Raith

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