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Dick Whittington and His Cat at Wilton’s Music Hall

Published by: Clare Brotherwood on 6th Dec 2015 | View all blogs by Clare Brotherwood

What better place for music hall and panto aficionado Roy Hudd to stage his latest feast of festive fun than in an original Victorian music hall.

Situated down an alley 15 minutes walk from Tower Hill tube station, Wilton’s began life around 1690 as four houses and an ale house for wealthy sea captains and merchants. During the 1800s a concert room and auditorium were added, and in September this year a three-year £4 million project to repair the original buildings was completed.

It’s a unique space, with a cavernous, galleried auditorium surrounded by a labyrinth of rooms bursting with character and atmosphere. It’s like stepping back in time. Nothing fancy; the whole place hasn’t been refurbished, just restored.

But that’s enough of that. Though the venue is a star in itself, Roy Hudd’s self penned version of the classic London tale is everything you’d expect from this multi-talented showbusiness veteran - and more.

It’s bursting with music hall songs, Cockney rhyming slang and nursery rhymes pertinent to old London - there’s even a musical number featuring the spoons! And, of course, the comedy is second to none, from topical jokes to downright, side-splitting silliness, especially from lovable Idle Jack, played with great innocence by Simon Burbage. I love the campness of Ian Parkin as shopkeeper William Widl (not, it’s not a misprint!) and the acrobatic prowess of Steven Hardcastle as Tommy the Cat. But Gareth Davies takes some beating as the rockin’ Ronaldo Ratface - a man of so many voices. His talent for mimicry knows no bounds.

After 57 years of treading the boards, tackling everything from Shakespeare to farce, West End musicals to Coronation Street, performing solo shows about his beloved music hall to presenting Radio’s longest running comedy show, The News Huddlines, at the age of 79 Roy makes his debut as Dame, and he takes to it like a duck to water. He’s a cheeky chappie - sorry, chappess! - flirting with the good looking boys on stage, eyes wide and a devilish grin, and joining in complicated routines, song and dance with all the enthusiasm and energy of someone half his age, though in the finale I caught him gazing as if in awe at his young cast. And deservedly so. Every member of the cast does a sterling job, under the experienced eye of director Debbie Flitcroft, otherwise known as Mrs Roy Hudd. The whole production gallops along at a cracking pace and certainly does justice to the hallowed walls of Wilton’s Music Hall.

Dick Whittington and His Cat is at Wilton’s Music Hall until 31 December.

Box office: 02077022789

www.wiltons.org.uk

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