Dick Whittington, review: Burgess Hill Theatre Club, Croft Theatre, Burgess Hill Girls School, until December 22

Sophie Davies (Alice, left) and Stephanie Somerville (Dick Whittington)
Sophie Davies (Alice, left) and Stephanie Somerville (Dick Whittington)

Dick Whittington’s brave tramp to the bright lights of London proves immensely worthwhile in this fine performance by Burgess Hill Theatre Club.

Two hours and 25 minutes flies by in a fast-paced pantomime packed with terrific performances.

It seems churlish to pick stars, such is the commitment of everyone on stage.

Yet it is impossible to overlook the confident and crowd-pleasing Richard Gill as the Doodle the Odd Job man. Every time he moves or speaks the audience seems primed for laughter, and much the same reaction is provoked by the irrepressible Robert Carpenter, master of the double-entendre as the saucy Dame Sarah the Cook. The audience seem to be waiting for the next quip, slip, ad lib or faux pas whenever these two are on stage.

Colourful sets conjure up the atmosphere of the tale as it unfolds in an engaging mix of one-liners, enthusiastic dancing, gags and songs.

And there is plenty of action. Suzi Allen’s pacey direction keeps the younger children from fidgeting, and slick slapstick sessions are eagerly devoured.

Cucumber cool Stephanie Somerville does not just eat up the miles on her marvellously long legs as Dick Whittington, but adds a dash of pathos and glamour. Des Fitzpatrick is a malevolent eyeful as Rupert Slyful, creepily rotten to the core in pursuit of love, while a demure Sophie Davies charmingly shines shafts of romance into the busy proceedings as Alice Fitzwarren as well as showing some defiance. Strong cameo roles emerge; superb Pippa Jones as the hag Ermintrude, strong-singing Gina Paul as the harassed Polly, and Josh Murphy as dodgy Dobson the butler. The well-cooked Bradley Collett in his Tommy the Cat costume is more than merely decoration, with a physically demanding role appreciated by the crowd.

This warm-hearted pantomime is a terrific appetiser for Christmas.

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