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Dick Whittington Pantomime – Bristol Hippodrome REVIEW

Can anyone tell me how Shane Richie does it all? In 2019 alone he has done a full UK tour starring in The Entertainer, was in the West End show Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, filmed two TV shows for Channel 5 and is now finishing off his year with pantomime at Bristol Hippodrome. Should someone check if he is okay? Getting enough sleep? Five-a-day? Bit of self-care? I’m concerned for his wellbeing, but also very impressed as he does not disappoint in this production.

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He is undeniably brilliant on the stage and shines in particular when thinking on his feet and when speaking to the younger audience members. He is witty, relaxed and clearly enjoying every second of being up on stage. His energy overflows into the audience and captures everybody’s heart instantly. Without him, the show would fall a little flat.

But unfortunately there was one rather off-putting element about his part in the pantomime. Shane Richie is 55. Nothing wrong with that, but his love interest in the pantomime was played by Christine Tucker who is lovely and brilliant in her role, but problematically is only 26. Can you see the issue here? It was creepy to watch Richie try and seduce the innocent and child-like Alice character when the age gap is so significant.

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One character of note was the hilarious Peter Piper as Captain Cockles, who was a great sidekick to Richie and the two bounced off each other well. Other characters, the Dame and Queen Rat were rather forgettable. The Dame seemed to have lost all the jokes to Richie and Piper and was neglected in the other area where he needs to shine, in the costume department. For a show so visually stunning, the Dame’s costumes, which should be outlandish and extravagant, were really rather understated and dull. Queen Rat lacked in her role as an unconvincing ‘bad guy’. She just wasn’t evil enough for my liking and lacked the sly and cunning ways needed to be a pantomime villain.

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The ensemble were strong dancers and singers, and the choreography was complex, which is unusual for a pantomime, so this was a pleasant surprise. They were joined by young dancers from Bristol School of Dancing who were very professional and clean.

The plot of Dick Whittington is known and loved by all, and I understand that modern pantomimes often change the plot slightly to refresh things but I was a little surprised when we ended up in Morocco and lost the majority of the main plot points from the original story.

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They patched over the gappy plot with several skits dotted throughout the show. From confectionary-based word play to pop song banter and endless tongue twisters, the double act of Richie and Piper worked well and created moments that the audience will reminisce on and chuckle to themselves.

All these seemed to have the audience laughing but I think I would have preferred some more typical pantomime humour to go along with this as well. But to my joy there were classic references to local areas around Bristol and plenty of boo-ing to satisfy any audience member.

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The main bulk of the humour was quite smutty and the opening “I love Dick” joke got rather old very quickly, especially for the poor women in the front row who was forced to stand and shout it several times. Completely unimaginative and unoriginal and I’m not sure the laughs it got were worth the pain we all went through.

Visually though, this pantomime is quite something. With the set coming straight from the London Palladium, the production values are high and the stage brimming with colour. If you want your child’s eyes to pop out of their head as scenes change and panto magic unfolds before them, then this is the show for you.

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