Dick Whittington and His Cat, Lyric Hammersmith, London

Click to follow
The Independent Culture

There is nothing like a really good pantomime dame to satisfy an audience's deep desire to be dominated. This is proved again, to deliriously enjoyable effect, in Dick Whittington and His Cat at the Lyric Hammersmith. It's hard to believe that Shaun Prendergast is making his first foray into stage-damehood with this magnificent performance as Sarah the Cook. Modelling a succession of outrageous outfits and dominating the proceedings with his raucous gravel-voice and his wickedly glinting, manic personality, he comes across as the gaudy love-child of Dame Edna and Timmy Mallet.

When she reveals that her knickers bear the legend "BUNS" across the backside, Sarah tells us we should be glad that she isn't advertising doughnuts. There's just the right amount of good, clean filth in a witty script by Joel Horwood and Morgan Lloyd Malcolm that is even richer in groan-worthy gags and verbal slapstick for the kids. A similarly deft balance is struck between the trendy and the traditional. Paul J Medford's Cat is an engagingly edgy dude, while Steven Webb is lightly and likeably tongue-in-cheek as a gauche, gentle Dick who leaves the rough stuff to Rosalind James's feisty Alice.

Energetically performed parody-versions of Glee, Jay-Z et al power forward Steve Marmion's pacey production as it whisks us from the streets of London to shipwreck in exotic "Timbucthree" and a bananas account of a society that's in thrall to the mad greed of a human-pineapple Prince (a splendid Kulvinder Ghir). The voice-over narration is provided by Stephen Fry and Alan Davies as the ponderously avuncular Bow Bells, Ding and Dong. Their bufferish bemusement serves to highlight how well this gleeful, good-natured Dick Whittington manages to propel panto into the contemporary world while preserving its essential spirit.

To 8 January (0871 221 1722)