Manchester Theatre Awards

> Independent informed reviews by the region’s most experienced critics

Dick Whittington

Fine Time Fontayne and Kevin Shaw
Oldham Coliseum Theatre
Oldham Coliseum Theatre
11 November 2017 to 13 January 2018

John Barrowman isn't the only Dick in town this year, as the Coliseum returns to a title last done by them in 2011, also penned by Dame Fine Time Fontayne and director Kevin Shaw.

Still the most striking thing about Oldham's pantos is Celia Perkins's wonderful designs, giving a modern picture book feel to the whole show with loads of great visual gags hidden all over the painted backdrops. The costumes fit this design perfectly, and the Dame's many outfits are architectural masterpieces.

The Coliseum still clings onto some disappearing panto traditions such as the female Principal Boy, a role that Nina Shadi fulfils perfectly well—frequently mentioning he is "from Oldham" and slagging off Rochdale—with Shorelle Hepkin also fine as Alice Fitzwarren, a fairly passive Principal Girl character—another fading tradition. Miley Rose is an impressively acrobatic Tom the Cat.

After dropping out last year following a rehearsal injury, Fontayne is back as Saucy Sarah Suet and back on his usual form, playing mother to another Oldham panto favourite, Richard J Fletcher as Silly Billy. Another regular on the team is Renny Krupinski who has choreographed some pretty impressive fist and sword fights.

Simeon Truby takes the Villain role as King Rat, a greasy, leather-clad biker, a "Rat Out Of Hell" in fact. He covers that song so well that the audience gets confused with its responses, having to turn its spontaneous cheer at the end into a "boo".

There is a good mix of songs of different styles and from different eras, although Principal Boy and Girl get saddled with the modern dancey pop numbers that are very repetitive and never sound great live. MD Dave Bintley's 3-piece pit band sounds great, although with backing vocals occasionally coming from nowhere and the sound of tap dancing when the dancers are wearing jazz shoes, I have suspicions of some recorded elements to the music.

Everything is there that you would expect, from the slosh scene in the kitchen to the "behind you" scene with the ghost and it all comes off with efficiency if not with a great deal of originality. The songsheet section, however, does go on a bit; when it's already quarter to ten, there's no need to get kids on from the audience and then do "my side is better than your side"—one or the other is quite enough.

But apart from stars off the telly, it's got all the elements you would expect from the big pantos on a smaller scale—and with a smaller ticket price.

Reviewer: David Chadderton


Comment by Carmel Thomason

If there was an award for most extravagant stage comeback it would have to go to, Fine Time Fontayne. ‘I’m back!’ he says, bounding onto the stage dressed in a tower of doughnuts, propped up by bright yellow Doctor Marten boots.

For young children Oldham’s pantomime is a colourful, swashbuckling, magical adventure where they all come out heroes. For the adults, watching the children enjoy themselves so much is the real fun and Fine Time Fontayne is a tonic not to be missed.