Laugh-a-minute panto

Panto at St John's Church Hall, Gooder Lane, Rastrick
Panto at St John's Church Hall, Gooder Lane, Rastrick
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‘Dick Whittington’

St John’s Church Hall, Rastrick

THE warm, happy atmosphere of St John’s pantomime is always a match for any chilly December night and this year’s performance of Dick Whittington was certainly a winner with its packed, first night audience.

There were side-aching chuckles aplenty at the antics of the many superb and skilled comics in this laugh-a-minute show, produced by Graham Readshaw and Sharon Berry with Freda Hiley as musical director.

Neil Denham played a superb Les Dawsonesque Dame, Sarah the Cook. He was rightly big-bosomed and rosy-cheeked and his gags came fast and furious, looking oddly alluring in his yashmak, tinpan lids and orange pantaloons.

David Williams, an excellent comedian, played the gormless son, Idle Jack and treated his audience to buffoonery at its very best as he caused onstage havoc astride a wayward ostrich. His ‘Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy’ brought tears to the eyes.

Another hilarious comic duo were the dim-witted pirates, Ben Dover and Len Olium (what wonderful names!), ably played by Catherine Chippindale and Nicola Logue. They had the most improbable beards and caused clownish chaos at their every appearance. Tony Hiley also had his audience in stitches, as The Sultan Khasi, ‘looking a bit flushed’. He was over-run with rats, had a rare Yorkshire accent, yet looked strangely regal in his string vest.

The battle of good versus evil was played out between a retro-droll, slightly demented Fairy Tinkerbelle, Hannah Jones and a villainous King Rat, Eleanor Readshaw-Senior, who quite rightly earned vociferous boos from her audience. Her wicked machinations, thankfully, came to naught.

The very talented Felicity Austin played Dick Whittington and her mellifluous voice and confident stage presence drew cheers and applause. The duets she sang with her sweetheart Alice, Hannah Berry, were lovely. The scenery in the show was quirkily funny as we had a London backdrop, complete with up to date details, including the Shard and the London Eye.

Many beautiful costumes were worn by the charming chorus of tiny tots, who earned the loudest cheers – and young, endearing Samuel Jones was the star of the show, as he nonchalantly hitched up his falling trousers in the spectacular, sparkly Lambeth Walk finale. The show runs until Saturday and is not to be missed!

Janet Lawton