Jonathan pips Cilla for panto fun as Dick Whittington impresses at Aylesbury Waterside Theatre

Jonathan Wilkes, Christopher Patterson and Suzanne Carley in Dick Whittington, Waterside Theatre, Aylesbury, December 2011
Jonathan Wilkes, Christopher Patterson and Suzanne Carley in Dick Whittington, Waterside Theatre, Aylesbury, December 2011

IT’S unfair to compare but I just cannot help myself. So here it is: Dick Whittington is even better than last year’s brilliant offering of Cinderella, writes Adam King.

There, I’ve said it.

The Waterside Theatre’s second panto keeps you entertained from start to finish with great songs, saucy jokes, gorgeous sets and wonderful costumes.

Jonathan Wilkes, who may lack the celebrity status of last year’s star turn Cilla Black, more than makes up for this with a great performance as the eponymous hero.

The kids will love his charm, and the adults will appreciate his fantastic voice as he sings numbers such as Time of My Life and Haven’t Met You Yet.

But it is his rapport with panto dame Christian Patterson, playing Sarah the Cook, that steals the show. Patterson is absolutely hilarious and there are times when he genuinely looks like he’s got Wilkes in stitches as well as the audience.

There’s more gags per minute than most stand-up routines and the humour is gloriously politically incorrect.

Just to give you an idea, there’s jokes covering anorexia and female incontinence, but they’re never nasty and will go over your child’s head anyway.

What it all adds up to is a rollicking good time for parents, while kids will get a buzz out of knowing that the jokes are rude even though they don’t understand why.

And did I mention the innuendo on Dick Whittington’s name? Yep, there’s that, too. In shovel loads. And it’s very funny.

Every good panto needs a fiendish villain and Steven Serlin as the creepy King Rat is the surprise hit of the show.

In fact, the entire cast perform their roles admirably. There’s no dead wood this year, unlike the woeful Gary Lucy as ‘Prince Charmless’ last season.

The show is lavishly produced, too, with the terrific sets demonstrating once again just how far Aylesbury has come from the wobbly cardboard cut-out days of the Civic Centre.

One of my favourite moments was an underwater scene in which the animals of the deep are brought spectacularly to life using clever lighting effects – a real treat for the eyes.

Special mention must also go to the wardrobe department which has come up with several extraordinary – and extremely funny – costumes for Patterson to squeeze into.

My only gripe with Dick Whittington (and it is a very small one) is that it could be a touch more festive.

Those of you who watched Cinderella will remember the hilarious Twelve Days of Christmas routine performed by Aylesbury’s very own Andy Collins as Buttons (which remains the best set-piece in the Waterside’s short but illustrious panto history).

It’s a shame that Dick Whittington couldn’t offer something along similar lines, but perhaps I’m just being greedy.

Dick Whittington provides brilliant entertainment for kids and adults alike and I can’t recommend it highly enough.

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