Dick Whittington and his Cat – Review – Hackney Empire

by Stewart Pringle

Review of Dick Whittington and his Cat for Time Out


In a year of a jubilant Olympics, mayoral elections and a marathon Jubilee, the capital-centric story of Dick Whittington was always going to be a smart choice, and Hackney Empire has delivered a Christmas panto smash that’s practically a paean to London. From Rina Fatania’s floating entrance as Fairy Bowbells to the gorgeously realised adventure on and under the ocean waves, ‘Dick Whittington and His Cat’ is the height of crowd-pleasing fun.

Joanna Riding slaps a good thigh as Dick, her smile never dropping for a moment as she fights off Kat B’s seriously charismatic King Rat. Steve Elias makes an excellent fist of the dame role, and Tony Whittle brings a scene-stealing roughness to Alderman Fitzwarren.

Writer and director Susie McKenna has put together a production that straddles traditional and contemporary with ease: there’s a snatch of dubstep, some neatly reconstructed gender politics and a multicultural flavour, but also all the scattered sweets and call-outs you could wish for. A barb at Boris raises a cheer from the adults, but there’s less sauce than you’d expect. Slightly truncated and it could be the perfect panto, but with the first act running at 90 minutes, there’s a little too much of a good thing.