REVIEW: Hornchurch panto Dick Whittington shines as 3D triumph

PUBLISHED: 11:33 04 December 2013 | UPDATED: 11:33 04 December 2013

Alison Thea-Skot, Sam Kordbacheh, Simon Jessop, Sam Pay, Elliot Harper and Sarah Scowen star in Dick Whittington at the Queen's Theatre, Hornchurch. PHOTO: Nobby Clark

Alison Thea-Skot, Sam Kordbacheh, Simon Jessop, Sam Pay, Elliot Harper and Sarah Scowen star in Dick Whittington at the Queen's Theatre, Hornchurch. PHOTO: Nobby Clark

©Nobby Clark

“It’s time to put on your 3D glasses.”

Perhaps not a panto trope as recognisable as “he’s behind you”, or men in drag, but nonetheless one that was thoroughly enjoyable - as the Queen’s Theatre, in Hornchurch, gives the festive tradition a modern interlude.

Dick Whittington, directed by Bob Carlton, is a triumph of slapstick, tongue in cheek and audience participation - all staples of any true pantomime.

Audiences young and old are first introduced to Idle Jack, played by Elliot Harper, who regularly announces his arrival on stage with a “how ya diddling?”

A sufferer of narcolepsy and a lack of intelligence, Idle Jack is a loveable half-wit who at points finds himself glued to tables, running from rats and wrestling an octopus.

Harper jumps in an out of song with ease, and provides a constant stream of jokes from the 1970s that receive the occasional groan - but raise a smile regardless.

His on-stage mother, Sarah the Cook, is the real star of the show and steals almost every scene as we meet the young Dick Whittington, and his cat Tommy (played by Sam Kordbacheh), who arrive in London ready to make their fortune.

Sarah, the obligatory dame, is played by Simon Jessop - who sports a wild array of costumes, ranging from cupcakes, ships and a patriotic number saved for the grand finale.

His character embodies everything loved about panto, with jokes layered to make children chuckle and adults blush delivered with all the expertise of man well versed in the art form.

Sarah takes in young Dick and Tommy, finding them a job and setting us on our adventure with a song and dance - of which the highlight is You’re Very Very Very Welcome.

The part of Dick is played with gusto by Alison Thea-Skot, whose regular thigh slapping and Peter Pan styled stance are everything an audience comes to expect from the lead boy.

Armed with best friend Tommy, Dick becomes besotted with Alice Fitzwarren, played by Sarah Scowen, and the two appear to leap straight out of a Disney movie as they perform the doughy-eyed You and Me, Side by Side.

And like all modern Disney productions, this panto jumps into the audience as the mysterious 3D glasses handed to each audience member come into their own mid-way through.

Sharks, fish and harpoons all fly into the stalls and I must admit to flinching more than once as the audience roared with laughter.

Alice’s father Alderman Fitzwarren, played by Sam Pay, is perhaps the surprising favourite - introduced to every scene with an amusing trombone accompaniment.

His larger than life of portrayal of an antique collector with a slight speech impediment and weak spot for the panto’s dame is a delight, and their blossoming love story is perhaps greater than that of Dick and Alice.

But what would a panto be without a villain? Samuel Ward-Smith’s turn as King Rat is met with boos and hisses on each appearance, as he channels Essex’s own Russel Brand.

His eloquence, but devilishly cockney twang, makes for an amusing foe to which the antidote is the Fair Bow Bells, played by Lauren Brown.

Though restricted to the side of the stage for most of the show, her grace in speech and movement is notable on each and every appearance.

With a script by Nicholas Pegg, music and lyrics by Carol Sloman, and a supporting cast of full voiced young actors, this is a panto that delivers.

A clever array of genuinely funny jokes, a magical adventure and a dame’s wardrobe that wouldn’t be out of place at a Lady Gaga concert.

Dick Whittington runs until January 11, with tickets priced between £12.50 and £26.50. To book, visit

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