‘Tis the season for outlandish and exciting pantomimes, and what better way to enhance your tired-out, classic idea of what a panto is than to thrust (literally) your way into a new way of looking at one? If you haven’t been to an adult panto before then you’re seriously missing out on what Cilla would call “a lorra lorra laughs”, with Martin Witts and Lesley Ackland’s seasonal offering of ‘The Adventures of Dick’.
The Leicester Square Theatre is a charming location with surprisingly excellent levels of seat comfort and more than one bar, which is always a plus. It was refreshing to have such a great view of the stage (with so much going on in panto it helps to have a well-spaced room in which to enjoy it), so top marks for location.
From the minute I heard the line: “…cover her cream bun in my population paste” I was in pieces; I still don’t think I’ve recovered all the parts of my lungs that went missing from laughing so hard at the countless one-liners. It’s certainly not for the prudes of London town; there are enough explicit references in there to make your great-nan’s toes curl. I’m no stranger to adult pantos, therefore when I say that this was the most racy one I’ve been to, that says a lot – the audience was caught between roaring with mirth and covering their mouths with a mixture of horror and undeniable amusement.
On the whole, the script was very good, with a comedic awareness that worked brilliantly in the Soho setting and hit all the right notes with the audience. Several political and cultural references made for an intelligent and poignant social commentary (references to everything from the Bake Off Channel 4 move to Donald Trump’s election to this year’s Pokémon Go craze), and the amount of audience engagement written into the show was just about right, adding that suitable amount of “please don’t pick me, please don’t pick me” we’ve all learned to emanate at these kinds of evenings.
The storyline itself is a little thin on the filling, with most of the play being centred around innuendo and sexual acts, detracting from what is otherwise very small amounts of actual plot development. However, despite this, the characters are vibrantly written and hold strong identifiable traits that make each of them memorable, from the outrageously cavalier Dick, to the hugely likeable Fairy Bell-End. The sheer energy and fun that the cast brought to the stage was magnificent; I do love seeing a cast have a giggle when something minor goes wrong, because panto isn’t something to take too seriously – it’s meant to be the definition of organised chaos.
The ensemble were excellent and well-projected, with a superb offering of ‘If I Were Not Upon the Stage’ (I’ll never understand how performers don’t get muddled up during this, I’m sure it’s a challenge). A cast very well-balanced in terms of ability and energy, this is exhausting to watch because you feel like you’re up there with them – but that’s certainly not a negative thing, there’s no time to be bored.
Highly recommend if you’re looking for an evening of frivolity and naughtiness in the West End.
Reviewed by Laura Evans
THE ADVENTURES OF DICK plays at the Leicester Square Theatre until 30 December 2016