REVIEW: ‘Dick Whittington’ at Coliseum Theatre, Oldham

Some of the cast of Dick Whittington at the Coliseum Theatre, Oldham
Some of the cast of Dick Whittington at the Coliseum Theatre, Oldham

I’M running out of superlatives to describe the Oldham Coliseum Panto, so I looked up the origins of this essentially British theatrical experience.

I’m running out of superlatives to describe the Oldham Coliseum Panto, so I looked up the origins of this essentially British theatrical experience.

We all know the conventions. The Principal Boy is played by a sexy girl in tights (Justine Elizabeth Bailey), who slaps her thigh with gusto. The main comic part is that of the “dame” played by a man in drag (Fine Time Fontayne) and assisted by the comic lead, whose task it is to fall about and get the audience participating, (Richard J. Fletcher).

There is always another comic fall guy, Alderman Fitzwarren (Simeon Truby), a charming young lady (Lisa Holliman) and an animal of sorts, this time a cat (Rachel Hollister/Elizabeth Lawrence). But we must not forget the Good Fairy (Liz Carney) and the Baddie (Andonis Anthony).

It is conventional that the Good Fairy always enters Stage Right (audience’s left) and The Baddie Stage Left. The “plot” must include slapstick, usually a scene of baking where much gets spilled and thrown around, lots of song and dance and mild sexual innuendos, which, in theory, go above the heads of the children in the audience.

There should also be some topical jokes. I think we all found out more about local opinion of Oldham’s Metrolink!

This year’s Dick Whittington has all the ingredients wonderfully mixed. Fine Time Fontayne is again a splendid dame in the most outrageous costumes (design Celia Perkins). Richard J. Fletcher is an excellent “pratfaller” and he really gets the audience shouting. Simeon Truby (a favourite of mine) is good as the Alderman, and I have to mention Andonis Anthony, reprising his role as baddie King Rat. He is so sexy it’s hard to boo him.

Director Kevin Shaw holds it together, more or less! I took two young ladies with me, so I didn’t look too daft, shouting and singing, although many unaccompanied adults were as noisy as I was. We all loved it, particularly when Dick Whittington “corpsed” and reduced us all to helpless laughter.

I gather bookings for next year’s “Cinderella” are already breaking records. It will be lovely to be back in the refurbished Fairbottom Street theatre, but the company has an exciting programme at the Grange Arts Centre in the meantime.

Box office: 0161 624 2829. Website: www.coliseum.org.uk

PIPPA MUNRO HEBDEN