Clever Dick

PRIVATE DICK WHITTINGTON

B2, Belgrade Theatre, Thursday 8th December, 2016

 

While the pantomime larges it in the main house, it has become a tradition in the Belgrade’s studio space to stage an alternative version.  It has also become a highlight of the season for me.  Last year’s excellent Vampomime was one of my top shows of 2015.

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Writer Nick Walker – a very inventive man – frames his version of Dick Whittington in the film noir genre of The Maltese Falcon.  Dick is a private detective, a Sam Spade figure, making wisecracks and firing off puns like a machine-gun.  Walker cleverly marries tropes of the genre with aspects of the panto story: Dick is framed for theft, there’s a shipwreck, a sultan, a cat… It’s an amazing feat of writing and those puns (‘She went to South America? I don’t Bolivia!’) are delightfully groan-worthy.

Heading the company is Keeley Harker as the eponymous detective – a homage to the tradition of principal boy.  Her delivery is pitch-perfect, rattling off pun after pun with exquisite timing and a Noo Yoik accent.    She is more than ably supported by a versatile trio who play all the other parts.  Nicky Cross’s femme fatale, Lauren Alderman, is a sultry vamp, beautifully melodramatic as she stalks and poses around the stage.  Anna Piper’s roles include the cat (here a magician’s assistant), a snake charmer and a hypnotist’s wife, all of them larger-than-life and very funny.  Liam Nooney is suitably villainous as Mr Hypnoza and his Sultan turns out to be a rather camp Northerner.

It’s as silly as it is clever.  Director Robin Colyer adds visual gags to complement the incessant punning and keeps the action rattling along at quite a lick.  It adds up to an hour of laugh-out-loud fun.  Wonderfully daft, energetically and amusingly handled, this Dick brings pleasure to everyone.

keeley-harker-as-private-dick-whittington-and-nicky-cross-as-lauren-alderman-credit-robert-day-2

Smoking pun: Keeley Harker as Dick and Nicky Cross as Lauren Alderman (Photo: Robert Day)

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About williamstafford

Novelist (Brough & Miller, sci fi, historical fantasy) Theatre critic http://williamstaffordnovelist.wordpress.com/ http://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B008AD0YGO and Actor - I can often be found walking the streets of Stratford upon Avon in the guise of the Bard! View all posts by williamstafford

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