We Are Chester editor Angela Ferguson and her daughters went along to Ellesmere Port Civic Hall to watch Dick Whittington.
Comedy legend Jimmy Cricket and Mark Labbett, aka The Beast from TV show The Chase, were among the star turns in this festive show.
It was our first visit to Ellesmere Port Civic Hall and we thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s a big venue with a warm and welcoming vibe – and there was super cheap parking when we visited, at just 50p. And we have to say that the interval facilities were superb, with a range of reasonably priced snacks and drinks to be enjoyed in a cosy lounge area right next to the theatre itself.
We settled into our seats on the back tier of the theatre to enjoy an excellent view of the performance.
There was all you could expect from a panto, with plenty of slapstick along with the obligatory shouts of ‘he’s behind you’, ‘Oh no it isn’t’ and boos and hisses at our baddy King Rat (Mark Labbett), who has a commanding stage presence with his tall stature and booming voice.
There were also plenty of captivating rhymes and songs and some lovely audience interaction, including giant floaty footballs being sent out into the audience. It’s fair to say that it was great festive fun and the audience of young and old alike seemed to lap it up. There were also plenty of rib tickling jokes, although the clever idea of chocolate bar-themed puns used in one scene went on for too long.
Jimmy Cricket played the eccentric Professor Fitzwarren, with his classic catchphrase of ‘come ‘ere’ woven in nicely. It was great to see the old wellies marked left and right also making an appearance. He also performed a song which he has published on a charity CD to raise money for Francis House Children’s Hospice in Manchester. It’s called Santa Bring My Wellies Back To Me.
They were ably supported by a cast including the gregarious dame Sarah the Cook (Nathan Smith), sweet-natured and loveable Wally (Ben Sherlock) and the kind and thoughtful Alice (Hannah Hobley/‘Telle Garvey in Benidorm). All of the cast clearly put a great deal of energy into the performance and enjoy the regular audience interaction.
The story was narrated by Fairy Bow Bells (Kate Salmon) who was an energetic presence on stage, weaving her fairy magic throughout the show. And Dick Whittington (Danny Lee Grew) was our hero, arriving in the big smoke that is a London, complete with his large cat Tommy.
Mention must also be made of the chorus of dancers and performers who worked their socks off playing a range of characters, from rats to Londoners, courtesy of the Chriska School of Performing Arts.
All in all, this was a festive treat and we certainly plan to make a return visit to this gem of a venue.
For more information on future events at Ellesmere Port Civic Hall visit the website here.