Home Arts & Culture REVIEW: Private Dick Whittington

REVIEW: Private Dick Whittington

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Private Dick Whittington

Private Dick Whittington, the ‘comedy crime caper’ alternative pantomime now showing at Coventry’s Belgrade Theatre until December 31st, has plenty of Christmas cheer but few belly laughs. A sprinkling of topical asides locate the action in a fictionalised Coventry (‘The last time I was asked to believe the unbelievable was when I was at the Ricoh Arena!’) where a down-at-heel Private Dick is approached by the wife of the local theatre-owner. She asks him to hide the night’s takings in his safe – but is her story what it seems?!

Thus begins a convoluted and gloriously silly tale involving magic, poisoning, shipwreck, snake-charming, a talking cat and the recovery of a priceless ruby. The jokes, while they come thick and fast, are mostly a bit ho-hum (‘it used to be an funeral parlour, but it was too much of an undertaking’; ‘Sultan Pepper: he’s a well-seasoned ruler’), but the energy and enthusiasm of the young cast, combined with the fast-paced plot, mean it just about manages to carry the audience with it.

In a cast numbering only four, all of whom work extremely hard, it’s perhaps wrong to single out any one performance for praise, but Liam Nooney, playing various roles, brought an authority to the stage that was at times lacking elsewhere – although his portrayal of the Sultan of Morocco as a handbag-toting, Yorkshire-accented fop in a Chinese-style coat may yet cause a diplomatic incident.

At only an hour long, Private Dick is much shorter than its blousy big sister, Dick Whittington ‘proper’ showing elsewhere in the theatre. It’s great fun, but although not a Christmas turkey, it’s not quite a Christmas cracker either. If it’s panto you want (oh yes we do!) you might as well go the whole hog and see the real thing in the main auditorium next door.

Private Dick Whittington, The Belgrade Theatre Coventry until December 31st. Tickets £12.50 – £15.50 (Concessions £8.50 – £13.50).

Not a Christmas turkey, but not quite a Christmas cracker either.
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