Triumph for Pompey as panto spirit soars

Review: Dick Whittington – The Pompey Panto, Kings Theatre, Southsea, until Sunday, January 3

Dick Whittington – The Pompey Panto, Kings Theatre, Southsea
Dick Whittington – The Pompey Panto, Kings Theatre, Southsea

The cast were visibly overcome at the great gush of gratitude and appreciation which came their way at the conclusion.

It felt like the applause was never going to end, and boy, did the company deserve it on a night which was clearly about so much more than panto.

This was a theatre (and everyone who works there) and an entire audience reclaiming their lives as a dreadful year finally departs – a group of people celebrating one of our greatest (and oddest!) traditions amid sudden, renewed hope.

From the moment the first lockdown struck, The Kings were determined that they were going to finish 2020 with panto. Even when it seemed that absolutely nothing was going to be possible, The Kings insisted their panto would happen.

And now, against odds which must have seemed insuperable at times, they have kept that promise richly and wonderfully well.

The result is a triumph for panto, a triumph for the Kings, a triumph for Portsmouth and, yes, let’s say it, a triumph for the human spirit. We needed this – and we got it.

Inevitably, with all the restrictions, you couldn’t help wondering whether panto 2020-style might end up as some lame, watered-down affair. This was anything but.

Never for a moment did this feel like a panto which has had its wings clipped. Quite the contrary. This was a panto which soared on the magic it created.

OK, we couldn’t shout out or sing and there were no kiddies up on stage; but in this year of all years, less definitely felt like more. It happened – which could have been all that mattered. But in the event, it happened brilliantly.

But then again, with the Kings’ very own Jack Edwards at the heart of it all, it was never going to be a timid affair. Edwards is a superb dame, absolutely everything a dame needs to be, lovable, cheeky, quick witted and immense good fun, gleefully enjoying every second every bit as much as we were.

Alongside him as Dick Whittington was Sean Smith, one half of X Factor finalists Same Difference, and his was a lovely performance. Keeping the energy levels high, James Percy was excellent in the Silly Billy role. The company was Pompey through and through – and they rose to the biggest challenge of their careers.

This was a night of huge significance. The Kings, the great survivor down the decades, kept the faith – and now everything seems just that little bit better.