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CHEERS AS KING RAT IS TRASHED BY PUSS AND BIG SNAKE

December 3, 2013

DW-051IF YOU want to embrace the full magic of Christmas, get you down to Hornchurch.

As a reviewer of years standing, I think this is the first time I have ever left the Queen’s Theatre so totally awash with the infectious sprit and enthusiasm that flowed off that stage on Monday night.

It was exceptional.

Nicholas Pegg’s Dick Whittington didn’t just come alive, it hit you full force from the first number with the youngsters to the last belter of a finale.

Directed by Bob Carlton, his bolt on extras such as a 3-D spectacular with the red and green plastic cinema viewers, to a whole colony of little fluffy rats climbing all over the place. Both effects had the audience on the edge of their seats, even the ‘it’s behind you’ shook the dust out of the rafters as the Brownie packs gave full voice and resonance and shamed the mums, dads, grannies and granddads to join in the banter. No mean feat in itself .

The noise and enthusiasm actually never stopped, giving very little time to assimilate what you had just seen and heard, but at the end of the show when exhaustion started to take its toll, most had a sore throat and fair idea that they had enjoyed the night.

With eight Cut to the Chase professionals having far too much fun, it was a spectacular evening, but I must give great credit to the animal section!

Having seen many fine stage interpretations of furry creatures, I have to say that Sam Kordbacheh’s Tommy the Cat was in a class of its own. Sam a superb actor in everything I have seen him in, but this really was quality.

I can only liken it to the magic effect achieved by the National Theatre puppeteers with the War Horse. You believed a collection of two by one slats and self tapping screws, was actually a horse called Joey and it made you cry. Sam skilfully brought out all the feline moves and gestures and played the sort of cat all would like to have, and there were a few young ladies who would have liked him on their lap.

The other animal was another Sam, but this time making his break into the big time at the Queens.

It was not that long ago that Sam Ward-Smith played the rear of the pantomime cow, but then he was a member of the Queen’s Youth Theatre, and showed such ability, the theatre took him on as their ‘Apprentice’.

A remarkably well chosen move as he excelled in the role of King Rat, and apart from looking like something out of Rocky Horror, he certainly made it his own, encouraging a tsunami of hiss and booing crescendos.

The devastatingly beautiful Sarah Scowen was the thinking man’s heroine with a dazzling smile that lit up the auditorium and voice to match.

With beauty, brains and that magic smile, she was just prefect as Alice Fitzwarren.

Alison Thea-Skot was the hero Dick Whittington, and apart from the odd thigh slap, left no doubt here was an actress who knew her job. A real infectious bundle of fun, she put the portrayal of Lord Mayor on another level.

Lauren Brown carried the wand and pantomime name of Fairy Bow Bells with a lot of sympathy and gave a good performance .

Having recently seen Elliot Harper as the villain in Deathtrap, he played the Dame’s daft son, Idle Jack enthusiastically and raised the sympathy level with the youngsters who were jumping out of their seats every time he came on stage.

Sam Pay was a remarkably good Alderman Fitzwarren. I have seen other renditions of this role where the character did not come out, but Sam really put a lot into this and it showed.

Simon Jessop as Sarah the Cook. With so many costumes to carry on stage he really did not have to do much. They were ridiculously funny and the professional actor just bathed in the role as he always does.

The big thing about the Queen’s is the welcome involvement of youngsters. It has active youth groups and three teams of eight appear in different performances and had the chance to share in the limelight. Monday had the Green team of Harleigh Stenning, Tayla Bunting, Josh Gleaves, Amy Hollingsworth, Sid Summers, Finley Jury, Charlee-Lou Borthwick and Hannah Jean-Baptiste, and they were brilliant. Well performed Infectious enthusiasm is all I can call it and it was remarkably good.

The other two teams are Red: Michael Chamberlain, Caitlin Dible, Emmanuel Watson, Harriet Clements, Evelyn Burr, Ava Hugo, Lennon Crandle and Louis Rice. The Blue team are:Toby Pavitt, Ben Thompson, Mia Citroen, Callie Sampson, Isabelle Hands, Isabelle Manley, Samuel Woodgate and T’Jai Adu-Yeboah.

With a set and costumes that stood out, this is a wonderful production lavishly gilded with some fascinating and sparking performances.

People often talk about the magic of theatre, now is your chance to see first hand.

Dick Whittington runs until Saturday January 11 with tickets available from the box office on 01708 443333.

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