"Christmas magic begins in Eastbourne"
by Sascha Cooper for remotegoat on 13/12/17

The Devonshire Park Theatre was alight with Christmas magic as the audience walked in. The story of Dick Whitington has enchanted audiences for centuries, but this version was certainly the most entertaining one seen to date. With a really strong cast of engaging characters and a well written script, it had all the ingredients of success.

The set and costumes set the tone of the evening as bright, colourful and impactful. You could tell from the way everyone was working together that it was a slick production and the team worked well together. Even the obvious comedy sketches that used the backstage crew in throwing buckets of water over characters in scenes to create waves gelled well in terms of comic timing. You can tell a show is going to go well when the comradery on and off stage becomes infectious and from the start, it was clear that all involved wanted to provide all with the best time possible.

It was lovely to see the long standing tradition of the principal boy return to the original routes of a girl playing the role. Catherine Glover played the title role with the right mix of heroism, comedy and style and also charmed the audience as she made her way to success. The partnerships she had with her cat (purr-fectly played by Felicity Morris) and love interest Alice Fitzwarren (played by the divine Francesca Leyland) were so sweet and beautifully connected that belief was suspended temporarily.

David Adler played two roles in the show - Alderman Fitzgerald and the Sultan of Morocco. The ease in which he switched between the two was second to none and again developed a good working partnership with all on stage. But it was him teaming up with Sarah the Cook (Martyn Knight) that made the most impact in terms of comedy in a very chalk and cheese style.

Sarah and her son Idle Jack (played by the brilliant Tucker) had the most slick work in terms of comedy, cheese and slapstick though. Their chemistry as the unusual mother and son team was electric and really worked the audience interaction to their fullest, even when the energy from the audience dropped, they got it back up again.

But the real highlights of the show were the good and evil partnership that seemed the most unlikely pairing, but their sparring matches in rhyme and music brought this pantomime to another level. Playing the baddie may be the most fun, but it's also the most tricky, as you run the risk of being a caricature rather than a character. Not Todd Carty though of Eastenders and The Bill fame...he played the most well rounded and scary villain ever seen on stage...King Rat! His dark poetic lines and physicality exuded evil and gave the right amount of depth as he attempted to take back London as his. But Allison Harding as Fairy Bow Bells was no pushover! Her fairy was played for comedy as she went into cockney territory and played a mean saxophone to tempt the rats away. The chemistry in their sparring matches was electric and powerful that a separate show could have been made around them alone.

This show has all elements of the perfect pantomime and is not to be missed.

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