Dick Whittington and Alice. Credit: Richard Jarmy.

There used to be a pantomime every year at Norwich Theatre Royal. And most Theatres. But then things changed last year and sadly, they were cancelled. BOOOOOO.

But this year, it’s back! OH YES IT IS.

Dick Whittington and his Cat at Norwich Theatre Royal this Christmas is a fabulous opportunity to enjoy some good fun (with a dash of silliness and some amazing singing and dancing) and forget the relative chaos outside in the wider world for a couple of hours.

The cast, though slightly pared down this year, is brilliant. There’s a host of well-known names and faces, including Jarnéia Richard-Noel as Alice, who first originated the role of Catherine of Aragon in the sell-out international smash hit SIX the Musical, and has an absolutely incredible singing voice, and Yarmouth-born YouTube star and Dengineer Joe Tracini, whose comic turn as Tommy the Cat is hilarious.

Graham Cole, best known as PC Tony Stamp in the much-loved ITV police drama, The Bill, is great as Alderman Fitzwarren.

Richard Gauntlett returns as the marvellously ludicrous Dame Sarah Cook (as well as writing and co-directing the production). Incredibly, this theatre run will see Richard reach his 1,000th pantomime appearance and this is his 21st pantomime at Norwich Theatre Royal.

Expect a packed delivery of songs, dancing, drama and humour that’s full-energy from the moment Beau Bells (Shakeel Kimotho, whose first professional engagement was in Matthew Bourne’s groundbreaking Lord of the Flies) gracefully enters from the sky, to guide Dick Whittington (CBeebies’ Gyasi Sheppy) to his destiny the glittering finale scene.

There are all the traditional elements that define a good family Panto, including a fantastic villain (West End star and soap queen Siân Reeves) and plenty of audience participation. And 5-foot high rats. And Pirates. OF COURSE.

Queen Rat with Tommy the Cat. Photo: Richard Jarmy.

The comedy – particularly some of the slapstick – is cheeky and silly enough to appeal to all but the hardest of hearts.

Having missed a year, and being that much older, our boys were absolutely delighted by the whole experience. Our 9 year old was so animated and engrossed throughout that I almost had to hold him back. He was bopping along enthusiastically to every musical number, and, by the end, shouting back at the top of his lungs when asked to respond or sing along. I’m actually surprised he can talk today.

It’s not just for kids though. There was a lady in front of us who was doing the same and she was definitely older than 9.

Dick Whittington offers the perfect joyful, seasonal antidote to current times and I’d recommend it to anyone this season. Oh yes I would.

Jarnéia Richard-Noel singing. Photo: Richard Jarmy.

Now for the serious part… Norwich Theatre Royal have made every effort to implement a robust set of COVID-secure measures, including installing a misting system into the roof at Norwich Theatre Royal to sanitise the auditorium between performances. Their pantomime casts and crews are ‘bubbled’, and backstage the theatre is zoned to keep performers, crew and audiences safe. Between the front door and your seats, you’ll find hand sanitisers, enhanced cleaning and air purifiers. Obviously masks must be worn inside the theatre – including throughout the performance, unless you’re enjoying a handful of Pick’n’Mix sweets (we loved the selection from Oh So Sweet on White Lion Street in Norwich) or a drink. We’d wear them anyway, as sensible precaution, and while they’re not the most amazing panto accessory, if it helps keep our theatres open and means we can continue to enjoy these wonderful experiences, then pass the masks, we say.

Graham Cole and pirates. Photo: Richard Jarmy.

Not booked your tickets yet or not considering seeing the Panto at Norwich Theatre Royal this year? In the words of the Bells of London: ‘Turn again’.

Dick Whittington & His Cat is on NOW until Sunday 9th January 2022. Tickets from £10. Accessible performances in the New Year, show times including morning, early and late afternoon and evening.

Book online at norwichtheatre.org or call 01603 630000.

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