Cut to the Chase at the Queen's Theatre Hornchurch
The Queen's have been busy celebrating their diamond jubilee this year. They remain, at heart, a traditional repertory house, with familiar faces pulling together in the make-or-break end-of-year panto.
So Simon Jessop is Dame again in Dick Whittington; since he last glammed up he's been Ray Say and Jaques, as well as appearing in a thriller and a farce.
His Sarah the Cook relishes the innuendo and the familiar routines, though, as he reminds us, we only have to hear this stuff once, the company will still be delivering these deathless lines in six weeks' time.
Elliot Harper makes a likeable Idle Jack, prone to narcolepsy and boom-boom jokes, Sarah Scowen is the lovely Alice, with Alison Thea-Skot slapping that thigh again as Dick. Sam Pay is an excellent Fitzwarren, fruity and pompous, his every entrance heralded, for some reason, by Tony Hancock's tuba tune.
The non-humans are Samuel Ward-Smith's elegant King Rat, Lauren Brown's beautifully enunciated Bow Bells, and a sinuously feline Tommy from Sam Kordbacheh.
As usual, there's a juvenile chorus, who get some smart routines, and a classical Greek number on the Isle of Mythaca.
Nicholas Pegg's book is a sometimes lumpy mixture of sophisticated wit, with nice patter lists, old, and I mean ancient, favourites, [“Avast Behind!”, Greek Urn] and schoolboy smut. Unexpected delights include Watsup Dock, Incriminate! and Ah, Bestow, not to mention the fool's errands advertised all over Fitzwarren's shop.
There's a sing-along with Bow Bell Bongs, a 3D sequence for the shipwreck, cash-register name-checks for our sponsors, and even a Tinkerbell moment when the noisy audience is coaxed down to a whisper for “Please Tommy, Live ...”
Carol Sloman's serviceable songs include a knees-up You're Very Very Welcome, a couple of nice duets, and the big turn-again number at the end of Act One, as Dick relives his dream and climbs the pop-up-book staircase to Old London Town. MD, in the depths of the bi-partite pit, is Greg Last, who provides some excellent incidental music – Trenet and Jaws for the sea, a lovely little tune for the superglue routine.
Mark Walters' sets are a constant treat – the street, the ship, the shop interior, the huge and hungry basilisk, the remote control rats and the glittering arches of bells. He designs the frocks too; the Dame's dresses this year [by Jean Roberts] include a onesie, a pink muffin, yellow oilskins and a sparkling patriotic outfit for the walk-down.
As in the best reps, everything is done in house – the costumes, the music, the scene building. No doubt they're already planning the forest of thorns for next year's panto.
production photograph: Nobby Clark