If you fancy a fun family night out this Christmas then the streets to Milton Keynes Theatre are certainly paved with gold for all you panto-lovers out there.
EastEnders’ star Samantha Womack and X-Factor’s Stacey Solomon take top billing in Dick Whittington, which scores A+ for audience participation - but also went slighty overboard with crude schoolboy humour.
Let’s get the minor negatives out of the way, I thought the first half took a little while to get going, however once it warms up you’re in for a treat with plenty of thrills and spills.
But how many willy gags can you cram into the opening half? The constant innuendos were starting to wear a little thin when ‘Dick’ had his name ridiculed for the umpteenth time before we’d barely settled into our seats.
The toilet humour continued with Bosun Bill (Shane Knight) needing plenty of wind in his sails - the sailor would let rip every time he bent over. Harmless enough, and it had all the youngsters sniggering.
But then we were treated to the highlight of part one, the sausage pie gag with Idle Jack (the excellent Kev Orkian) and his mum Sarah the Cook (Kevin Brewis). An erect sausage that won’t lie down in the pan just about summed up the smutty first hour, but it was performed with such aplomb that it appealed to all ages in the audience, who were roaring with laughter as the poorly behaved banger ended up being shot!
But if you think a panto is all jolly one-liners then it’s time to smell a rat - enter a rather poshly spoken Queen Rat (Samantha Womack) who, like the panto, rapidly grew on me as the night wore on.
She - and her revolting rodent army - were on a mission to ruin Dick’s life and put a spanner in the works of his blossoming romance with Alice Fitzwarren (Hannah Ponting) - both of whom seemed to enjoy getting stuck into some lingering kissing scenes!
Fairy Bowbells tried to put the brakes on Queen Rat’s plans for sabotage.
The sprite had a slightly out of place Essex twang which took a bit of getting used to, but Stacey Soloman delivered her lines faultlessly nevertheless and we knew the X-Factor finalist would have no difficulty belting out a song.
As mentioned before it was audience participation where this panto struck gold.
Part two got off to a great start with the 12 Days of Christmas farce starring Idle Jack, Sarah the Cook and Bosun Bill. Rubber chickens, smelly socks and 5 toilet rolls, replaced the more traditional gold rings, calling birds, and French hens in this fast-placed slapstick action.
Those toilet rolls on a rope were thrown more than once into the audience by Jack, and were slung back successfully most times, until my eight-year-old son somehow ended up with them.
His futile attempt to chuck them miles back to the stage ended up going forward just a couple of rows and veering wildly left (apologies to whoever that unfortunate family were!).
The song concluded with 12 gallons of water - time for the supersoakers as the cast darted amongst the audience.
Soon afterwards Dick & Co set sail, only for their boat to sink which led to the audience being taken on a stunning underwater adventure (cue the 3D specs).
They washed up in Morroco which was the scene for a Dick (Chris Jenkins) versus Queen Rat lip sync battle. This was brilliant medley of songs featuring everything from Honey G to Queen’s Bohemiam Rhapsody, as the characters tried desperately to out mime each other, with some outrageous dance moves thrown in for good measure.
The superb second half also featured four children plucked from the audience by Jack for a bit of an Old Macdonald sing-song. All good fun as the youngsters were asked to pick out the craziest creature for the song. Note, it’s easier for a child to perform a cow moo-ing than a Pterodactyl, well, making whatever noises those flying reptiles are supposed to make!
> Dick Whittington runs through until January 15. To book tickets go to http://www.atgtickets.com/venues/milton-keynes-theatre or call 0844 871 7652.