Review: Energy overload as Belgrade panto turns everything up a notch

Craig Hollingsworth as Idle Jack and Iain Lauchlan as Dame Sarah the Cook
Craig Hollingsworth as Idle Jack and Iain Lauchlan as Dame Sarah the Cook
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Catherine von Ledebur reviews Dick Whittington at the Belgrade Theatre, Coventry

Former children’s TV presenter and Tweenies writer Iain Lauchlan has great fun bringing this rags-to-riches adventure to life without any big-name stars.

He is on good form too, as Dame Sarah the Cook with another wardrobe of outrageous costumes and reunited with ad-libbing sidekick Craig Hollingsworth playing Sarah’s son, Idle Jack.

Professional London singer/rapper Melone M’Kenzy is a blast as soulful villain Queen Rat. Her long-tailed vermin associates Scratch and Sniff – Eden Dominique and Matthew Brock - provide excellent comedic support.

Everything is a turned up a notch - the bright candy-coloured set design, musical soundtrack and old school slap-stick. It is a sensory overload with a few topical Donald Trump/Brexit jokes and a cockney fairy thrown in for good measure.

A riotous Pokémon Go inspired game – called Pokerat Go - causes mayhem and much excitement. In a bid to remove rats which have overrun London, Idle Jack asks children in the audience to throw orange sponge Pokeballs whenever they see a rat.

But Tricia Adele-Turner’s Dick Whittington and her athletic cat, Tommy prove altogether more successful at pest control.

You couldn’t help feeling sorry for poor unsuspecting dad Kieran. Sat on the very back row of the theatre he clearly was not expecting to steal the limelight at the Belgrade’s latest Christmas panto. Every year members of the audience secretly nominate a special someone for the infamous panto ‘slosh’ scene.

But Kieran was to become an integral part of the plot - to his sheer disbelief and the audience’s great amusement.

Lauchlan’s energetic production succeeds in getting even the youngest members of the audience perched on the edge of their seats in wide-eyed delight or screaming at the top of their voices.

Next Christmas it’s Cinderella. Already my seven-year-old is asking if we can book tickets…

* Dick Whittington runs until Saturday January 7. Call 024 7655 3055 or visit www.belgrade.co.uk to book.