7-14 January 2017
Reviewed by Jenny Bray
The Lawrence Batley Theatre is located at the edge of the centre of Huddersfield town, close to a couple of car parks. I followed the information given on the theatre website and parked at the Market Hall multi storey car park nearby. As I was parking before 6pm on a Sunday it cost me £1 for my entire stay! The car park is also very reasonable on other days, costing £1 to park after 6pm.
The theatre is then a short walk from the car park and is quite easy to find. I hadn’t been to this particular theatre before so wondered whether I’d find it ok. The entrance was well lit with fairy lights and looked inviting. The building itself is very grand, with a large gated entrance. The box office has a separate entrance to the right of the main entrance and has ‘Box Office’ above the door in green neon lighting so was very easy to spot. The staff were friendly and helpful. The ushers were also friendly when showing us to our seats. There is a bar and also a sweets/ice cream kiosk in the foyer. Please note that these are cash only tills so be prepared (unlike me, who’d forgotten that my hubby had ‘borrowed’ some cash from my wallet earlier in the day so left me short!)
I took my 4 year old to this show. It was at quite a family friendly time of 5.30, which I liked as shows are often put on at a later time even when aimed at families like this one is.
Dick Whittington is the second pantomime that the theatre has hosted this season. It follows Cinderella having been performed during December, their first professional pantomime at this theatre. Dick Whittington is an amateur performance, although I wouldn’t have known this if I hadn’t read the information about it prior to attending. The only difference being that it is performed by people who you won’t recognise from the television. It is hosted by Huddersfield Light Opera Company. Background dancers were provided by the Strickland Cook Theatre School.
The show began with the fairy godmother, Bowbells, rhyming her way through an introduction to the setting of the story and then the introduction of the ‘baddy’ King Rat, who rules the rats who are taking over everything. The main setting of the story is in London. Idle Jack (Neil Broadbent) works for the Fitzgeralds, who own a company with shops and ships. The name of the company is said differently by several people throughout the show, mainly by Jack and sometimes very comically. Even after the end of the show I still wouldn’t be able to tell you the real name of the shop, although it definitely contains shops and ships! Jack’s Mum is the Dame of the show, Sarah the Cook (Chris Brearley). She has some very interesting food combinations in store for people. Her rendition of ‘Eat it’ based on ‘Beat it’ is very funny. Dick (Zoe Clarkson) is introduced, along with her cat Tommy, as travelling from Huddersfield (of course!) to London looking for work. She applies to work in a shop, where she meets Alice, the Fitzgerald’s daughter. The shop is the stage for a funny scene where several people request different things. However, when Dick and Tommy start working there, King Rat intervenes and messes everything up for them. The Fitzgerald’s are then having a new ship delivered, that they all end up sailing on. When they end up on a strange island Dick’s luck is turned around by the sequence of events that occur there and the happy ever after you expect from any feel good panto is delivered.
There were several scene changes, which were all smoothly done via different backdrops and entire different set changes. The funniest of these was the kitchen scene on the ship, with Jack and his Mum Sarah, which takes place shortly after the interval.
There were a few dress changes for most cast members, although none more so than for Sarah the cook, who had several dress changes throughout, some more outrageous and garish than others. I particularly liked the doughnut outfit and mermaid get up. I also liked King Rat’s get up, as did my 4 year old.
The acting was great and the background dancers were choreographed and danced really well. As far as singing goes, it was Dick who stole the show with his/her songs. These included ‘Fight song’. King Rat also sang a great song. I’m not sure if his was an original as I didn’t recognise it as a version of a chart song.
For me (and also for my 4 year old) it was the slapstick comedy between Idle Jack and others, mainly his Mum Sarah but also with King Rat, that made me chuckle the most. He linked different acts together and he and Sarah encouraged audience participation the most. It’s the audience participation during pantomimes that’s always entertaining and encourages more laughs. Towards the end there is an interactive sing along with the audience.
There were a couple of small hiccups during the show, but nothing that couldn’t have occurred during a professional show too and they were well resolved (sometimes with lots of giggling which also made the audience giggle). I wasn’t sure whether one was deliberate as it got the most laughs from the audience during that act.
I didn’t feel like the first part of the performance gelled together as well as the second and there weren’t as many laughs during this part. Although there were still some sections that were very funny there were a couple of scenes that seemed a little like they were filler scenes and only loosely followed the storyline. The second part seemed to go much quicker. It was shorter in time but it also flowed more smoothly between scenes and produced lots of laughs during all the scenes. Overall I don’t feel as though I laughed as much as I have throughout some other pantomimes and there could have been more audience participation to encourage more comedy, but I did laugh regularly and was thoroughly entertained.
After it had ended all the main cast members stood out in the auditorium to allow you to take photographs with them, which I thought was a nice touch. My son liked King Rat but refused to have a photo taken with him even though they were all very nice! (I think he was a bit scared and also a bit tired by that point). Lots of other children did have their photos taken and these will be a nice keepsake of the show for them.
All in all it was a great performance and it seems a shame that it’s not on for a little longer. With most tickets costing between £6 and £15 it is a bargain for the quality of the show provided and it was great, family friendly entertainment with comedy aimed at all ages.
I rate it 4.5/5 and would recommend it to an audience of any age.
Tickets cost from £6 to £15.
Dick Whittington is at the Lawrence Batley Theatre in Huddersfield until 14 January 2017. For more information or to book tickets click here or call the box office on 01484 430528.
Lawrence Batley Theatre, Queen’s Square, Queen Street, Huddersfield, HD1 2SP