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Panto Review: Dick Whittington (and his Meerkat) - York Signal Box Theatre, York Theatre Royal ✭✭✭✭✭

Dick Whittington (and his Meerkat) 
 York Signal Box Theatre
York Theatre Royal

29th December 2015: Here we go, my final panto of the year, and this one is a bit different. Due to York Theatre Royal being refurbished (and thankfully not underwater like the rest of York), this years offering has been moved to the Signal Box Theatre at the National Railway Museum, utilising the set basics of award winning 'The Railway Children'.

Now this is no mean feat, having the audience on both sides of you whilst the set is pushed and pulled along the space by an incredibly hard working crew. But it works, and it works splendidly. As an audience member, you are a lot closer to the action than ever before, the cast are whizzing by your feet, they interact more with you and its a pleasure to watch.

From the opening number of 'Why Be Anywhere Else?' (a parody of Lily Allen's LDN), it sets the high production values of a storming show ahead. The band sound good, the chorus are in fine fettle dancing away like gazelles in a gymnasium, and this show is a thing of beauty. Non-stop laughter, an updated script from years gone past, and a cast that are getting better as each year goes by.

Suzy Cooper as Charlotte Cheapskate is just fantastic as usual, her comedy and mannerisms are second to none. Local favourite Martin Barrass is once again in fine form playing two characters with quick costume changes which leaves you in hysterics. Looking for the best Panto Villain in the UK? Then look no further than David Leonard (West End's Miss Trunchbull in Matilda the Musical) here as Herman Vermin, a pleasure to watch.

Written, directed and starring Berwick Kaler, once again he is showing why he is one of the top performers in the industry. His energy and enthusiasm for the piece shows no bounds, and in true Kaler style he has the audience in the palm of his hands. With the addition of Harry Gration in a film sequence, and a rather good UV sequence, this show has it all, even a jacuzzi!

Hats off to the creative team here for a doing a wonderful job (some of the team are the ones who brought us The Railway Children in this setting). Not only are you seeing one of the best pantomimes in the country, but also a masterclass in putting on vibrant and original work in a space that works a treat for a show like this.

Five stars ✭✭✭✭✭

Runs until 24th January 2016
www.yorktheatreroyal.co.uk

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