Stars explained: * A production of no real merit with failings in all areas. ** A production showing evidence of not enough time or effort, or even talent, and which never breathes any real life into the piece – or a show lumbered with a terrible script. *** A good enjoyable show which might have some small flaws but has largely achieved what it set out to do.**** An excellent show which shows a great deal of work and stage craft with no noticeable or major flaws.***** A four star show which has found that extra bit of magic which lifts theatre to another plane.
Half stars fall between the ratings


Dick Whittington

Sutton Arts Theatre


I am sure time speeds up with age. As a child the gap between Christmases was an eternity, and then some, now . . . well, it seems like only a few weeks ago I was down at Sutton Arts watching Cinderella heading off to the ball with her horizontal horse.

This year Cinderella, or at least her alto-ego Phebe Jackson, has left her glass slipper behind and taken up a magic wand as Fairy Bowbells in this year’s traditional festive treat, Dick Whittington, and its looking like another Christmas cracker.

Jackson, a performing arts graduate, looks more at home on stage every time I see her and here she also gets to shows off her great voice in a very confident and professional performance.

She is matched by the star of the show, Robbie Newton, as the oh so vile King Rat.  It is a deliciously evil performance and all credit to Newton who had to face up to the first four rows packed with Brownies with screams that could break a anvil whenever he appeared.

Far from being put off, Newton revelled in it, showing yet another side to what is becoming a very accomplished CV at Sutton.

He had a lovely line in sneers, scowls and put downs as well as a rats’ nestful of your ordinary, common or garden nastiness.

Battling the King is Dick and his cat, his trusty feline played by Izzy Beardsmore. The cat, Tomatoes, might be easy when it comes to words, like it’s just meow, but it is still not the easiest part to play, crouching and slinking cat-like around, chasing rats every few minutes and she does it well, so much so, she was the favourite characters for quite a few youngsters.

Dick is played by another SAT regular Tim Benjamin with another confident performance in one of panto’s straight parts, another being Alice Fitzwarren played here with an innocent air by Sophie McCoy.

They are the romantic interest, boy meets girl and all that, and do it well, with a pleasant duet, their little love story a little island of calm in the rolling ocean of panto mayhem around them.

Amelia Ferrelly gives us a lovely performance as Silly Sally from Somerset who works, in the loosest possible sense of the word, in Alderman Fitzwarren’s shop, and has an IQ that is just about approaching double figures and less than full control of her legs. And she sleeps a lot.


Phebe Jackson working her magic as Fairy Bowbells

Fitzwarren, played by Pete Dent, has Sarah the Cook to thank, or blame, depending upon your point of view, for running the shop and Paul Atkins does a fine job as the panto's traditional dame, with an outlandish range of frocks and some of the worst one liners and jokes yet seen in Christendom

And popping up in an endless number of jobs are Billy Bottle, played by Mark Natrass and Sammy Sack, played by James Hutt.

They create a truely stupid double act which appeals to young audiences. There is good support from King Rat’s slave Stinker, a role shared by Ashley Laight and Chris McHugh, and Suzy Donnelly does her regal bit as the Sultana of Morocco.

And behind them all is a 14 strong ensemble who give us townsfolk and Moroccan guards full of enthusiasm and well ordered dancing choreographed by Emma Green, Janine Henderson and Sarah Rhian

Directors Dexter Whitehead and Emily Whitehead, who also wrote the script, have again treated panto as a full-blown, big budget production with a good set, designed by Mark Natrass using a scrim and a rolling cloth with an aerial view of London.

David Ashton’s lighting and Chris McHugh’s sound have more cue’s than most shows and even include two projectors for an undersea scene of sharks and fish all in the hands of Callum Craib, Wanda Harris and Sophie Clarke.

The undersea bit also includes a flying sequence, which is a brave - or mad - move by a theatre with just a ceiling and no flies – although I suspect Dick and Alice will be very nervous every performance about where the sticks are going to go – bringing tears to your eyes doesn’t come near to covering it, but you will have to buy a ticket to find out why.

Costumes - wardrobe mistress Phebe Jackson - are impressive and there are enough pyrotechnics (Stephen Curran and Spot on Events) to manage a half decent bonfire party.

Children in the audience loved it, even being enthralled by a model ship flying (slowly) above their heads on a wire. Simple and unsophisticated – we think children need more and more CGI and SFX but sometimes we forget they have the greatest special effects of all - imagination.

Adding the music was musical director Gladstone Wilson with Adam Hawkins and Dan Emery on percussion.

This was the first performance and the first act took a little time to get going with things gaining momentum after the interval. With the opener under their belts though the show will tighten up and pick up pace to find its natural rhythm - it’s another fine feather in Sutton’s family panto cap . . . oh yes it is! To 22-12-18

Roger Clarke


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