REVIEW: Dick Whittington, Theatre Royal, Newcastle

Danny Adams, Chris Hayward and Clive Webb in Dick Whittington.
Danny Adams, Chris Hayward and Clive Webb in Dick Whittington.
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You know Christmas has finally arrived not by the tinkling of sleigh bells or an angelic chorus of Silent Night filling the air, but by a dopey cry of "Accidurrnt" and a custard pie in the face.

Danny Adams and Clive Webb's panto extravaganza is as much a part of Christmas as pulling a cracker or getting an elbow in the eye in the Black Friday festive sales.

Charlie Hardwick

Charlie Hardwick

The father and son team have been bringing their over-the-top record-breaking pantos to the Theatre Royal for over a decade now, and each year they just get bigger and better.

And last night's take on the classic tale of Dick Whittington was no exception.

We had hair-raising stunts, spectacular effects and more songs and quick-fire gags than you could shake a tinsel-wrapped stick at.

You are certainly not short-changed at the Danny and Clive panto which hurls special effects, explosions and the occasional bucket of water into the laps of the appreciative audience.

In recent years there's been fighting giants, anarchic robots and flying sleighs to feast your eyes on. This time round saw the return of the 3D screen and two gravity defying monsters that had the youngsters screaming.

But while the stunts are welcome, pantos are all about tradition, audience participation and, well, just a loud and colourful good time. And you get that by the spade full.

Star of the show, however, is motormouth Danny Adams, who the kids identify with from the off. There's nothing like a mischievous bungling idiot with a ready supply of mickey-taking one-liners and an eye for toilet humour to get the children onside. His catchphrase of "accidurrrnt" followed by a childish giggle always wins the day.

Adams plays the lead character Dick Whittington heading off to Newcastle to seek his fortune, rid the city of a rampaging horde of rats and add sparkle to his love-life, though the story serves only to send our hapless hero from one slapstick encounter to another.

On his journey he encounters Clive as Councillor Fitzfenwick (the home-crowd are treated to numerous Geordie references on the night) and panto regular Chris Hayward as Dame Rita Fitzfenwick, who pours herself/himself into an array of costumes best described as the stuff of Victoria Beckham's nightmares.

The stardust is supplied by former Emmerdale favourite and local lass Charlie Hardwick who plays the Spirit of the Tyne and is always on hand to wave her wand and extricate Dick from the tightest of spots.

Pick of the set pieces for me was the amazing trampoline act with the acrobatic Captain Birdseye (Phil Seaman) and a Teletubbies routine which made me glad I was in the upper circle as three unsuspecting dads were dragged on stage and stuffed into fancy dress.

Steve Arnott as King Rat had no trouble dragging the boos and catcalls out of the crowd while Peter Peverley as did a creditable Bobby Thompson impression while playing Dick's cat Little Bobby.

Scene stealer was the too-often under-used Michael Potts as The Idiot who must be the funniest straight man in theatre.

And as a nice touch at the end of proceedings (Plot spoiler: Dick gets the girl), Danny took time to thank producer, director and writer Michael Harrison for making the whole show such a rip-roaring success. I couldn't agree more.

The show has everything, from impressive magic and eye-popping costumes to big stage song and dance routines and circus juggling that has you on the edge of your seat. There's even a cameo appearance by a Strictly Come Dancing star reading the news! But Wearsiders be warned: as the show is Newcastle-centric,Sunderland as a city does not escape lightly. The Mackems are at the brunt of many a joke, but it's all good humoured. Honest.

Dick Whittington and his cat is the purr-fect festive treat for all the family. You could say it's the cat's whiskers.

Dick Whittington runs until Sunday, January 17, 2016. Tickets are available from £12.50, (save 50p per ticket by booking online). Tickets can be purchased from the Theatre Royal Box Office on 08448 11 21 21 (calls cost 7p per minute plus your phone company’s access charge) or select your own seat and book online at www.theatreroyal.co.uk.