Dick Whittington is on at Stratford Play House until 31st December. A core cast of five professional actors are supported by actors from local amateur dramatic companies. Here director Andrew Anderson and actors Danny Lee Grew (playing Idle Jack) and Chris Ponka (the Dame, Sarah the Cook) tell Herald arts about the production.
What can we expect from this production of DW?
Danny Lee Grew playing Idle Jack: Magic! I’m a a magician, we actually have some real magic in the show, things you won’t see anywhere in this country! One of my illusions includes a flower pot, an umbrella, a garden hose and a Segway. Intrigued? Then come and see it!
Andrew Anderson, director: Everyone knows the story of how Dick travels to London and becomes the Lord Mayor, but there are plenty of twists and turns along the way. There will be lots of singing along, joining in and even a bag of sweets for the youngsters. Beyond that, I’d say “expect the unexpected”!
Tell us about the cast and who else has been involved creatively.
Andrew: We are so lucky to have an amazing cast, all of whom bring something different to the show. We have brilliant singers, comedians, dancers, musicians and even a magician. There will be some faces you recognise from other shows in Stratford and some who are taking to the Play House stage for the first time. The Play House team have been amazing, working hard to give us spectacular costumes and an astonishing set. This really has been very much a team effort.
What’s your favourite bit of the show?
Chris Ponka playing the Dame, Sarah the cook: My favourite part of the show (apart from meeting the audience afterwards) is always the ‘It’s Behind You!’/Ghost gag – having kids shout that is always brilliant.
Danny: My favourite part of the show is the ultraviolet underwater scene. It’s so colourful, funny and charming.
Can you remember seeing any pantos or festive shows when you were young?
Danny: The first panto I ever saw was Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs at the Wimbledon Theatre, starring Lionel Blair, Linda Lusardi, Sam Kane and Mr Blobby. What a line-up! I remember Mr Blobby did a cartwheel and his costume fell to pieces, which the audience thought was hilarious.
Andrew: I remember seeing Dick Whittington with TV weather girl Wincey Willis as Dick and the wider cast included the Chuckle Brothers. It was such a different experience to anything I’d seen before. I loved the mixing together of old and new songs, alongside different kinds of variety acts, so that’s exactly what I’ve tried to achieve with this production.
What do you hope the audience will take home at the end of the show?
Andrew: We’ve deliberately made this panto very Christmassy so I want the audience to leave brimming over with the magic of Christmas and the magic of panto.
Chris: I always hope that every single member of the audience goes away having had a great laugh and enjoyable night out – and is eager to book a seat for next year’s pantomime, or maybe even wanting to get involved themselves.
Panto is most people’s first experience of ‘live’ theatre. We feel that responsibility, and want to add to the continued success of performance venues like Stratford Play House.
If you could have one Christmas wish come true this year what would it be?