Review: The Scouse Dick Whittington

Date: 28/11/2023

The reviews are in and – if it weren’t before – it’s now official. The Royal Court panto is Officially Good. The Guardian loved it – ‘a joyful show’. So too The Times – ‘you would have to be a total misery guts not to let out a chuckle’. ‘Gleeful abandon’!; hooted The Stage. They didn’t like the dick jokes, at last not all of them. But would it be a Royal Court show without a spot of Dick and Fanny?

This one is based – very, very loosely – on Dick Whittington and along the way there are some vague allusions to it. There’s a cat, there’s a rat, arguably a couple of twats in an ensemble full of grotesques: Dick Head and Mum Holly, Drew Schofield’s delicious King Rat and the full complement of Liverpool Bingo references (Lobster Pot, Everton, the 86…).

But there’s also Keddy Sutton in her usual turn as a vaguely horrifying Joe Anderson (appeaaring via a magic mirror or something), Liam Tobin’s baffled Dad and a four-piece band who assist the all-singing and mostly-dancing ensemble whenever they’re called upon to powerhouse another 80s hit.

Adam McCoy and Lindzi Germain

Mark Chatterton has been tempted down the road, where he oversaw the Everyman’s rock’n’roll panto for, well, forever it seemed. That pedigree ensures the carefully controlled knockabout humour remains present and correct – a delicious balancing act between the odd spot of corpsing and direct address and complete chaos. Schofield, Lindzi Germain and Liam Tobin are past masters, but new Adam McCoy joins in the fun and it’s in the unscripted moments that the sheer joy of the cast lights up the theatre.

If there’s a downside to it all it’s the rock’n’rolling. While it’s nice to see the four-piece band run through their tightly-honed number and hear the cast belt out another standard, it’s always felt like a cunning way of turning 60 minutes of material into a full two hours.

There’s a cat, there’s a rat, arguably a couple of twats in an ensemble full of grotesques

Here the sight of McCoy’s Dick repeating the words ‘this means nothing to me’ can only mean one thing and, sure enough, we get an incomprehensible detour to Austria – complete with a Mr and Mrs Mozart – just so he can run through Ultravox’s Vienna. Sometimes the tail wags the dog, but does it matter? Probably not. Everyone gets a bye at Christmas and the audience are up for it.

“A rough and ready panto that makes you feel at home,” said The Times. For those of us who live in this city, even more so.

The Scouse Dick Whittington
Royal Court
Until 27 January