The Whingers were faced with a tough decision this Christmas. Phil’s sister thought that given this blog’s occasional reference to the imaginary Dilton Marsh Players the least the Whingers could do was drop by Wiltshire to take in their seasonal offering.
For although originally believed to exist only in the Whingers’ imagination it turns out they are as real as you and us although actually called the Dilton Players. This dedicated troupe of dedicated players numbers more than 40 and they DO present an annual panto*. Apologies due.
So, what to do? Dilton’s Sleeping Beauty or the New Wimbledon Theatre‘s Dick Whittington? Logistics dictated the latter, for despite the fact that Phil will be Christmassing a mere custard pie’s throw from Dilton Marsh their panto sadly isn’t until late January.
But the New Wimbledon had another card up its sleeve, having established itself as something of a boot camp for Johnny-foreign stars dipping their toes into the world of panto. The last two years saw Pamela Anderson in Aladdin and David Hasselhoff in Peter Pan. Despite Hasselhoff making a very game Captain Hook we didn’t care much for the show. Not a proper panto in our opinions – it didn’t even feature a dame. But the New Wimbledon has atoned for this sin in the most spectacular fashion: two dames in one show.
But who would possibly be up to the challenge of playing the dame when there’s a real dame on stage too? Especially when that Dame is Dame Edna Everage (playing the “Saviour of London”). You need a formidable veteran Dame and the New Wimbledon has one in spades: Eric Potts the panto supremo who also directs and wrote this Dick (and has written seven other pantos showing round the county this season). But who would get the most outrageous frocks? It’s a tie!
If last year was panto hell this is panto heaven. All the ingredients are in place**: opulent glittery scenery, singalongs, audience participation, kids up on stage, things thrown into the audience, local and topical references, corny and clever gags for kiddies and adults (even one referencing Tarka the otter) and an eclectic mix of songs from Michael Bublé to The Jam. And where else could you hear Village People’s “In the Navy” segue into “On the Good Ship Lollipop”?
There’s also a 3D sequence (viewed through Dame Edna-esque specs). But then what isn’t in 3D these days? Heck, even the Strictly Come Dancing final is being shown thus this weekend.
We had feared that Dame Edna’s role might be little more than a Pamela Anderson style cameo but there are very generous helpings of her. She plays up the fact she’s not really sure what it’s all about to great effect, is completely on form and hilariously subverting the genre (if that’s possible). Or, as she asks, who’s heard the word “genre” in a panto before? But then we’d never heard the Aramaic language mentioned in pantoland before either.
There is plenty of good support from Dancing on Ice champion Sam Attwater‘s Dick, Anna Williamson‘s Alice Fitzwarren, Richard Calkin‘s very boo-able King Rat and PRG Ben Goffe‘s breakdancing Captain Titchworth.
One of the highlights is a wonderfully physical musical number based on “The Twelve Days of Christmas” whose anarchy extends to quite literally “tripping a dwarf” for this is a panto which occasionally trips along a deliciously dangerous line and it seems only natural that Dame Edna should be at home here despite her protestations to the contrary.
We have already extolled the comic virtues of Kev Orkian who had us doubled up in his Edinburgh Fringe show this year. Watch his expressions after his far from idle Idle Jack has delivered the most groan-worthy of gags and his running “gag” (in two senses) with an imagined ugly member of the audience. He is also charming and hilarious with the kids on stage. Phil thought the panto had gone 4D and introduced Sensurround but it was Andrew rocking with laughter in his seat causing all the seismic tremors.
So, yes, you could say we liked it then. We’re sure they’re up to the task but the bar has been raised; the Dilton Players have much to live up to.
* The Dilton Players’ panto, Sleeping Beauty, takes place on January 26th, 27th and 28th 2012. Tickets £7.00 and £4.00 (under 16). Available from December 10th at CrowningGlory, Spar/PO shop and all other major Dilton Marsh retailers. For further information e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
** Except a proper slosh scene and a Principal Boy obviously.