Suffolk News review of Dick Whittington at the New Wolsey Theatre in Ipswich running until January 20, 2024
Alongside my daughter Rosie, aged nine, I headed to the New Wolsey Theatre in Ipswich on a Baltic January evening – because folks, panto isn’t just for Christmas.
As we arrived on Thursday night, ready to watch Dick Whittington and His Cat, I was struck by how modern and welcoming the theatre looked with fairy lights, funky artwork and other quirky touches.
It is not often you find the hero of the story wearing an Ipswich Town shirt, but the New Wolsey Rock ‘N’ Roll Panto is known for its individuality and this one had it in sandcastle buckets.
Without giving too much away. Dick Whittington is traditionally a rags to riches tale. With the help of his trusty cat and his stick, the hero rids London of rats and becomes Mayor - as you do.
The Wolsey version, written by Vikki Stone, does go slightly off-piste but in a good way, sometimes you just need to have a bit of fun.
The soundtrack, which was performed by a live band that also make up the cast of the panto, had something for everyone, including The Proclaimers, Queen, ACDC and of-course hometown hero Ed Sheeran, who got a couple of mentions.
Dick and friends certainly got the audience on their side with celebration of Ipswich Town’s current position in the Championship.
I particularly enjoyed the show’s trip down the A12, with nods to roadworks, ‘Big Tesco’, Copdock roundabout and Ipswich’s very own Angel of the North – the Toys ‘R’ Us sign.
Jokes were perfectly pitched, with the cheekier ones flying well over Rosie’s head – and audience member Michael was all too happy to get involved, so much so that I did question if he was in fact part of the cast.
Rosie’s favourite character was the cat and I can’t blame her, Myles Miller had it all, a cracking singing voice, confidence and a lovely tail.
His bromance, or should that be ‘catmance’, with Dick, played by Luke Thornton, was really endearing.
Max Kinder as Dame Sarah was my star of the show. Their awesome costumes were only overshadowed by a brilliant stage presence, comedy timing and powerful vocals.
Sarah was a truly modern dame, and Max’s originality and ad-libs had everyone laughing – I hope to see them on a Suffolk stage again soon.
In their programme notes Max said: “Combining live music and hilarious creatives, it’s just pure joy every day.”
And that sums it up, the multi-talented, small cast have been performing in the panto since November.
They are still smiling, laughing when something unexpected happens, and genuinely having a blast.
This atmosphere transferred into the audience, with those inside the theatre lapping everything up, clapping, singing and dancing-along.
I heard so many positive comments about the show and the fantastic set design, which can’t go without recognition.
As we left I had a warm, fuzzy feeling you can only get from live theatre and it was probably the most enjoyable panto I have seen to date.
Not wanting to dwell too much on Suffolk County Council’s proposal to cut arts funding – it was heartwarming to see such a full audience on a cold January evening.
I hope all the actors and team at the theatre felt the support that I believe there is for them and the precious theatre scene in the county.
Find a guide to theatre shows coming up in Suffolk here.