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Review: Dick Whittington at Windsor

Boom boom! Filthy family fun at the Theatre Royal as Basil Brush and his panto crew prove post Brexit Windsor's streets are paved with comedy gold.

Dick Whittington Theatre Royal Windsor Idle Jack Dame and Dick

Bottom’s up: AJ Jenk, Steven Blakeley and Kevin Cruise

The kids were dancing to ABBA, grandparents were throwing shapes to Baby Shark, and everyone was belting out ‘Five Golllllld Riiiiiiiings’ in between lots and lots of hysterical laughter. It can only be panto, and a brilliant one at that. Dick Whittington at the Theatre Royal Windsor feels as warm and cosy as my favourite pair of bedsocks, packed full of pop songs, politics and cheesy comedy.

This year, TV battleaxe, Anne Hegerty – The Governess on The Chase – is the big name on the bill, but she took a wrong turn on her way to Windsor, shouted ‘I’m a celebrity get me out of here’ and ended up into the Jungle. Anne will be back but, in the meantime, Carry On star and Celebrity Masterchef contestant Anita Harris has stepped into her shoes to play a very sassy, glamorous Queen Rat (just until Anne returns on 18 December), Marti Webb stands in for for Anita as Fairy Bowbells and former Radio One DJ Mike Read plays the stuff Alderman Fitzwarren and Captain Fisheye. Are you keeping up at the back? Bringing the average age down were our romantic leads Dick (AJ Jenks) and Alice (Megan Jones).

Fox puppet Basil Bush in goggles hat and flying jacket

Boom boom! Basil is back

The real stars of the show are Basil Brush, ex Britain’s Got Talent star Kevin Cruise (Idle Jack) and Sarah The Cook Steven Blakeley (who co-wrote this panto). Cruise and Blakeley are a superb duo who are very funny and make are the most of any mishaps by finding the funny in everything. I loved them – Cruise getting stuck in the cake was hilarious and the rogue sausage scene was the kinda of saucy humour that tickles me.

Steven Blakeley panto dame pink dress and white hat with pink ow and Kevin Cruise Idle Jack Dick Whittington red dungarees and yellow t shirt foam on face

Steven Blakeley and Kevin Cruise are the cream and on top

The staging and costumes were both excellent – the dame’s outfits became more and more outrageous. Sarah the Cook certainly made in entrance wearing  two plastic colanders for a bra – even a Wonderbra can’t create those curves –  culminating into his Big Ben party frock. Ding Dong. By far my favourite was his mermaid ensemble which had a hint of Daryl Hannah in Splash and Grotbags. Steven’s in his 10th year as Windsor’s panto dame. ‘I’m as hard to get rid of as Theresa May,’ he says. I suspect he’ll cling on longer than the Prime Minister.

Not the only newsy reference – and we covered a lot of ground: Brexit, Jermey Corbyn, Boris Johnson, Primark in Bracknell, a slight on Slough, genetically modified food (‘last night I had the best leg of salmon!’), the Spice Girls Reunion, I’m A Celebrity and more.

Anita Harris is a superb sassy Queen Rat

As with almost every panto I go to, one half is always slightly better than the other. The first was a little slow until Kevin Cruise disappeared through the trap door and popped up in a cloud of smoke for a brilliant Abba moment as he was joined by the cutest mini Agnetha, Anni-Frid, and Benny. Teasing us for a a magnificent second half – the ‘toilet-roll’ spin on the annual 12 Days of Christmas (you need to see it to understand but trust me, you will laugh) and Anita Harris’s version of Michael Jackson’s Bad were superb.

What wasn’t there to like? Well, some panto purists might get a bit irritated with so many pop songs – as if the story is incidental to the music rather than the other way around – but I thought most of them worked well. Elton’s Your Song gets another play, so if you’re sick of the John Lewis ad already, brace yourself. The first half jokes could do with tweaking, some of them fell a bit flat, but I’m sure that’s something that gets fine tuned night by night.

Other than that, I’m utterly devoted to the Theatre Royal panto, and the thrill of seeing all ages howling with laughter, shouting and dancing. If you haven’t already booked your panto, this one’s a banker.

Dick Whittington is on at the Theatre Royal Windsor until Sun 6 Jan. Anne Hegerty will appear as Queen Rat and Anita Harris as Fairy Bowbell from Mon 16 Dec. 

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