REVIEW: ‘Dick Whittington’ at Burnley Mechanics

Cast of Dick Whittington at Burnley Mechanics.'Photo Ben Parsons

Cast of Dick Whittington at Burnley Mechanics.'Photo Ben Parsons

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SLAPSTICK fun is always the best. Laurel and Hardy were masters of it. But good old-fashioned pantomimes are not far behind!

My two children Ruaridh (four) and Flora (two) love the modern day funnies courtesy of CBeebies show “Justin’s House’’ where the jokes are corny, but it’s good honest fun, with plenty of energy and colour.

So Ruaridh was delighted when he heard we were off to see Burnley Pantomime Society’s latest production, “Dick Whittington”. And even more delighted to discover his sister was too young, so she had to stay at home!

We settled down to the show and being a matinee, it was packed with children (and adults!) set on having a jolly good time.

And we were not let down. With chairman Hazel Hodder, director Neil Tranmer and musical director Jonathan Chalker, there was never going to be any danger of that. Hazel and Neil are old hands at panto and Jonathan is in his second year, so he knows what to expect. Illness meant Neil had to bow out just before Christmas but the production has continued in the capable hands of Martin Chadwick, Hazel and other society members.

In the days when Neil was on stage, rather than off, I was a member of the society and it was nice to see familiar faces still starring in the show, it must mean they are doing something right!

The cast is a mixture of young and old and they work well together. The plum roles for me are the characters that get to be silly and Sam Parker who played Idle Jack had a ball. His role was his first time in pantomime and he clearly relished every moment and grew in confidence as the show went on. He was ably assisted by the more experienced Dave Pilkington who played Dolly Dumpling. Dave has been involved in plays, musicals and pantomimes for more than 40 years and the two worked well. The highlight of their capers was their rendition of “The Twelve Days of Christmas.’’

Joining in the fun for the song were Kevin Kay who played Dick Whittington and Peter Morville as Alderman Fitzwarren. Kevin was confident in his role and had a good singing voice and liked a bit of ad lib too! And Peter helped steady the ship and clearly had fun.

The story tells of Dick, a young man trying to find his fortune. He is ably assisted by his cat Tom, played energetically by Laura Chadwick (Ruaridh could not get over the fact that a cat could talk!).

Dick falls in love with the alderman’s daughter Alice, played with aplomb by Louise Young and as Ruaridh said, “wearing some cool glittery dresses!’’.

Martin Chadwick (King Rat) was given the dubious honour of being the baddie again and clearly enjoyed the booing banter with the audience as he attempted to cause trouble for Dick.

Kathleen Watkins was hilarious as the Irish talking Fairy Bowbells, injecting lots of fun alongside experienced actor Stephen Dixon as Captain Cuttlefish and Angela Foulds as his silly sidekick Scupper.

The cameo role of the Sultan of Morocco was admirably played by Roger Dugdale. One of the biggest cheers of the night went up for the well-disciplined dancers who had been trained to perfection by Lynn McCheyne and Amanda Swinburn and not forgetting the good old chorus, made up of stars of the future, under the direction of Laura Chadwick.

The scenery and musical accompaniment finished off the polished performance. But as usual, the stars of the show were the audience. What beats nearly three hours of corny jokes, silly songs and lots of shouting “he’s behind you’’ in the company of a houseful of well-behaved youngsters transfixed by good old-fashioned fun?

The show runs from Thursday to Sunday, with evening performances at 7 p.m. and matinees on Saturday and Sunday. Tickets are brilliant value at £10 or £8 for concessions and to check for availability log onto www.burnleymechanics.co.uk or ring the box office on 664400. Tickets can also be bought at Contact Burnley in Parker Lane from 9 a.m. until 5p.m. on weekdays.

REBECCA HAY