Dick Whittington and his Cat at Wilton’s Music Hall
As Christmas approaches, pantomimes take over the theatre scene to bring to life classic tales with a festive flavour. While the story of Dick Whittington has been staged numerous times, this is the first show of its kind to take place at Wilton’s Music Hall, an atmospheric space that was not specifically designed for theatrical productions. Nevertheless, the staging works exceptionally well, and the building’s long and fascinating history, dating as far back as the 17th century, can almost be sensed in the air. It is, in fact, the ideal venue for retelling a traditional London story such as this.
The original personage, Richard Whittington, served four terms as Lord Mayor of London in the late 1300s. While there is no evidence that he owned a cat and there is no account of a rags-to-riches experience, the legend of his London adventures has somehow become part of English folklore. The show portrays him as a young man in pursuit of better life opportunities, who travels to London to find his fortune. The city is at that time infested by rats, and an incidental encounter with a cat named Tommy inspires Dick to offer his services as a rat-catcher. The evil Ronaldo Ratface, however, does his best to hinder Dick’s progress and stifle his ambition to be mayor. The rivalry between the two, mixed with the comical interventions of Sarah the Cook (played by playwright Roy Hudd himself) and her son Jack, results in great excitement among the young viewers, who are eager to assist the characters in their several quests.
From the mockery of Boris Johnson’s bike system to the fairy’s wand having a diamond-encrusted London tube sign, the show is packed with references to modern-day London. This means that the humour is current and, for the most part, accessible to all. Of course, not all the jokes are aimed at children and innuendo abounds, but there are enough requests for audience participation and enough singing and dancing to keep young ones entertained throughout.
A story of hope and ambition rewarded, Dick Whittington and his Cat is a tribute to London, with a twist. Bringing together history and present-day concerns, the show is intended to appeal to the whole family. The craft behind the overall production is evident in that all the elements work together seamlessly. In fact, it is so well-made that it could easily pass for a West End show. Colourful, comical and musical, it offers everything a family could wish for on a festive night out.
Dick Whittington and His Cat is on at Wilton’s Music Hall from 1st until 31st December 2015, for further information or to book visit here.