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Dick Whittington


Review of Dick Whittington 
Received from NODA SE representative
Jane Turner
18th February 2023

Dick Whittington
Group: The MAD Company Theatre Group
Production: Dick Whittington
Director & Author: Vanessa K Breach
Venue: The Millennium Centre, Liphook
Date: Saturday 18th February 2023

Description of the Production

What a treat to enjoy what must be one of the last pantomimes of the season, cleverly scheduled for Half Term. The well-known Dick Whittington story took us from King Rat’s Lair to London Town, the Docks, on board the ship “The Battered Haddock”, to Morocco and the Sultan’s Palace, and back to London. The script, written by the Director Vanessa Breach, contained many references to the local area which gave it a homely touch.

Theatre Ambience and Front of House

The compact auditorium in the Millennium Centre has an excellent range of raked seating with plenty of leg room – a bonus! The Front of House team were friendly and welcoming, identified by their smart sweatshirts. The stage was on the same level as the front row of seats, giving it a more intimate feeling with the audience very much part of the action.

The Programme

Eye-catching front cover with excellent photos of past productions and the current cast. Very clear font describing the scenes and cast and team. The short history of the real Dick Whittington was very informative as I for one wasn’t aware of the background. So interesting to know that when the legend became a fairy tale, it was first performed on stage as long ago as 1604!


The main sets, painted on back drops, were wonderfully colourful in their simplicity, like scenes in a story book. Congratulations to Hazel Simmons for the super art work and the appropriate props. I particularly liked the enormous urns in the Sultan’s palace. The fully stocked shop was a triumph and must have taken a huge amount of time, as were the two large wings on either side of the stage, one a mixture of London scenes and the other a mountain of rubbish symbolising King Rat’s kingdom. The deck of the ship and the Sultan’s Palace were equally striking.


Lighting was used very effectively throughout.


The brilliant array of costumes, headgear and makeup were outstanding. An enormous variety, so many changes, colourful, co-ordinated, villagers and sailors, rats and cats, young and old. Mandy Coluccia must have had her work cut out with such a large cast and she and her helpers surpassed themselves.


The opening song by the Adult Chorus was very strong, which was maintained throughout the production – all the choruses and the principals gave it their all and the choreography matched, with clever and disciplined moves and dancing. The whole cast performed well in all the lively and cheerful dance numbers. The recorded music was never too loud and allowed soloists and chorus to be heard clearly. There was plenty of scope for children who lived up to the challenge. Vanessa Breach must have been very busy but she certainly knew her stuff. A particularly clever touch was the parcel scene where a box of crockery is gradually reduced to junk while being transported across the world. The scene of the disappearing pirates spirited off by the rats was a clever variation on the more traditional idea of ghosts and “it’s behind you”. There was a great choice of familiar songs and the audience joined in enthusiastically with their participation number, My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean, bobbing up and down until I thought the raked seating was going to give up!

The Production

There is something about pantomimes which always create an atmosphere of fun, enthusiasm (by both cast and audience), colour and escape into another world for a short time. MAD’s production was no exception. From the very start, with the first appearance of suitably creepy King Rat (Tony Robinson), the chorus of young children in their colourful costumes, and three very sprightly, noisy little rats, we were immediately in a world of make-believe.

The main characters were gradually introduced, each of them very believable in their roles – innocent Alice Fitzwarren (Hannah Titchard) with her incompetent father the Alderman (Mick Selley); the two hilarious Cooks Sarah Suet (Mandy Coluccia) and Cherie Trifle (William Rawlings), who kept up his French accent very effectively; Dick Whittington (Tatum Shields), Captain Rock Salmon (Isabella Devereux) and his First Mate Chips (Kim Coombes); The Sultan of Morocco (Denis Titchard) and his beautiful slave Amber (Amy Woods). They all played their parts skilfully and convincingly.

It’s not always a good idea to single out particular roles as in fact there were no weak links. But there are a few who deserve special mention. First of all Fairy Tinkerbelle (Matilda West) who appears at the very start to reassure us that all will be well and she will overcome the ambitions of fearsome King Rat, her wonderful waving arms indicating that she would sweep him away without too much difficulty. Cassie the Cat (Olivia Tress) was very superior and bossy, clearly sure of herself and not inclined to become too familiar with anyone. The dance between her and the little kittens was enchanting. But if there was a stand-out, it was the pint-size Dozy Dan (Claire Fewings). Where did she get her stamina from? She kept going from start to finish with enormous energy, involving the audience at every turn, leaping about the stage and up and down the raked seating, masterminding the audience participation song, amusing, engaging. She hardly drew breath! No wonder she was always tired and had to be woken up by the audience!

The atmosphere at the end with the final song Reach for the Stars was electric, with the audience on their feet and singing their hearts out.

Finally, an inspired idea was to have the majority of the cast out in the lobby at the end to talk to the audience and see them on their way. My little grandson was over the moon at having his photograph taken with his two favourite characters, Cassie Cat and Dick Whitington!

A brilliant production to round off the pantomime season in such a memorable way. Well done everyone!

Jane Turner
Assistant Rep, NODA South East Region

The MAD Company, Liphook