Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Australian Times Reviews New Wimbledon Theatre's 2011 Pantomime "Dick Whittington"

From the Australian Times:
Dame Edna – the Australian saviour of London

When Dame Edna graces the London stage in the pantomime production of Dick Whittington, it’s not just the Aussies in the audience who swoon. TIM MARTIN found out that the Brits are actually quite fond of the ‘housewife from Melbourne’ too and she’s right at home in panto.

THERE ain’t nothin’ like a Dame! Never has the phrase been more apt than when Dame Edna Everage, all the way from Australia, flies onto the New Wimbledon Theatre stage (courtesy of Wombat Air) as Dick Whittington's ‘Saviour of London’ and greets the audience with an iconic “Hello possums!”. Australia’s favourite ‘Dame’, played marvellously by the Mr Barry Humphries, is making her pantomime debut this London panto season and she pulls it off with aplomb. Resplendent in colourful panto garb (she changes her amazing outfits no less than six times throughout the performance) it’s as if Edna was born to do panto.

For Aussies unfamiliar with the English tradition that is pantomime – it’s a brand of ‘Christmas’ theatre for all ages that heavily involves audience participation. The set and costumes in this particular show are staggering in their aesthetical value and the actors will have you in stitches all night long. Although the Aussie Dame steals the show – even transcending it in parts with ”you may be wondering what an international gigastar is doing hanging in mid-air in a theatre in Wimbledon… I’m wondering too” –there’s no denying there is just something inherently fun about pantomime. And while the lead characters, Sam Attwater from Eastenders and Dancing On Ice and Nickelodeon's Anna Williamson, aren't the most gifted of singers (it’s more like choreographed karaoke) their support cast have the comedic nous that will have you overlooking any flaws in search for the next gag.

Without giving away too much of the show (because any good Australian living in London should go and see this production immediately – not just to support Dame Edna but to experience the cultural awakening that is panto) some of the most hilarious moments occur around the ‘joker’ of the production, Idle jack, played by Kev Orkian. His banter with the crowd appeals to the children in the audience, his innuendo and shockingly bad puns serve the older members well and his 12 Days of Christmas song-adaptation (with Ben Goffe the dwarf and writer/director/cross-dressing Eric Potts) is worth the ticket price in itself. Just watch out for the flying toilet rolls and the water pistols!

There’s a 3D ‘Finding Nemo-esque’ part to the show that will leave you breathless (and shaking with a tiny amount of trepidation), there’s the side-splitting hilarity when Edna pulls someone up from the crowd and then mercilessly rips them to shreds (“I don’t pick on people, I empower them” she tells us cheekily). And then there is the pantomime staple – audience encouragement. Shouts of “oh no you won’t” ring out throughout the performance while the chief villain of the show (Richard Calkin as King Rat) is greeted with boos and hisses every time he emerges on stage.

If you’re looking for a rollicking good night out and have been meaning to go to the theatre for ages, leave Phantom of the Opera or We Will Rock You for spring and go and catch Dame Edna in Wimbledon now. You won’t be disappointed, you may just discover your inner child and you’ll definitely be caught out singing along to ‘A Bra That Was Made To Hold Three’. Long may the Dame from Down Under return to the UK for the awesomeness that is panto!

Dick Whittington continues at the New Wimbledon Theatre until 15 January.

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