Review: Dick Whittington, Bristol Hippodrome
One of the most popular British Christmas traditions surely has to be taking the family to see a pantomime, and there is no better place to experience one than at Bristol Hippodrome. I've watched some fantastic festive productions there over the years and so I couldn't wait to see what 2019's offering had in store.
This year we're being treated to the ultimate rags-to-riches story of Dick Whittington, with soap-sensation and musical theatre star Shane Richie playing the lead role. Qdos Entertainment (responsible for last year's smash-hit Cinderella), have brought the set, costumes and staging from their acclaimed production at the London Palladium all the way to Bristol, along with a brand-new script.
The much-loved tale of Dick Whittington is the only pantomime not based on a fairy tale, but instead on a true story (there actually was a Richard Whittington and he did become Mayor of London in the late 14th/early 15th centuries). However, a good panto is only ever loosely based around the story, and all you need to know is that this one is about Dick outwitting King Rat, winning Alice’s hand in marriage and finally becoming Lord Mayor.
King of the East End Shane Richie shines as 'Dick' (cue lots of good old-fashioned innuendo) and he is hilarious throughout. He's ably supported by Peter Piper as Captain Cockles and the pair share a lot of scenes and a lot of jokes together, including a brilliant and tear-inducing tongue twister scene. There are also lots of 'mishaps' which had us all howling with laughter, and which were so convincing that my young sons couldn't quite work out if they were genuine or not.
Aiming to put a stop to all the fun is CBeebies favourite Jennie Dale who plays Queen Rat. She makes a great villain and the giant rats which accompanied her on stage looked pretty evil too. David O'Reilly plays 'Sarah the Cook' but she didn't get as many really funny lines as the traditional panto dame normally does, which is a bit of a shame. Shona White as Spirit of Bow Bells and Christine Tucker as Alice Fitzwarren play their roles well too, but this production was really all about the lead performance.
One of the most enjoyable parts of watching a pantomime is that the audience is always vocal and ready to have a good time right from the start. There were plenty of opportunities for participation, with lots of boos and cheers in all the right places, from both children and adults alike! Shane Richie talking to four children chosen from the audience at the end was also a real highlight of an incredibly funny evening.
The set is colourful and very slick, and there are also some seriously impressive special effects in the first half (I won't spoil the surprise!) The songs and dancing were on point too, with The Ship's Crew (aka The Acromaniacs) treating us to a whole scene of fantastically choreographed acrobatics. There must also be a special mention for The Bristol School of Dancing whose 'Babes' danced alongside the Ensemble.
Verdict: Watching a pantomime is all about having a lot of laughs and a lot of fun. One of the striking things about last night's performance was that it genuinely looked as if the cast were enjoying the show as much as the audience was. Shane Richie says that "the whole cast treat each performance as a premiere, as it is the first time the audience have seen the show, and we put 100 per cent into making sure every show is special and memorable." Thank you Shane, it most certainly was!
Dick Whittington is at the Bristol Hippodrome until Sunday 5th January 2020. You can find more information and purchase tickets here.
Disclaimer: I was offered a complimentary family ticket in return for an honest review. All thoughts are my own. Photos by Dave Betts Photography.