York Theatre Royal has become world famous for its magical festive productions, written by star panto dame Berwick Kaler.
This year’s offering - Dick Whittington and His Meerkat - is up there with the best. Yet Kaler’s renowned innovation has been tested by an enforced move from the historic theatre, which is currently being renovated, to a “tent” (The Signal Box) at the nearby National Railway Museum.
The stage is an ever moving platform of wagons, admirably pushed along a railway track by the hard working crew, in the middle of two tiers of 10 rows of seating, bringing the audience closer than they have ever been.
Rather than the traverse setting limiting the pantomime, Kaler and co-director Damian Cruden use the opportunity to create a breathtaking and imaginative production.
Ships sailed the seas, shops opened and closed, boxing rings and more were rolled in front of the audience, with the cast often walking between the wagons as they moved.
Little was lost to this innovation - the usual colourful costumes, sets, music, dancing, singing and, of course, Kaler’s famous humour and delicious mischief which creates non-stop laughter - were all present.
The only favourite missing was the slapstick comedy water scene, but with so much on offer, it wasn’t needed.
Kaler is surrounded by his golden cast of York Theatre Royal pantomime favourites: Suzy Cooper (Charlotte Cheapskate), Martin Barrass (Willy Polony and Mayor Cheapskate), David Leonard (Herman Vermin), Vincent Gray (Dick Whittington) and AJ Powell as the meerkat Mr Finickerty.
Powell, in particular, is brilliant and was given plenty of opportunity so show off his singing, dancing and acting skills.
Watching the cast together, with Kaler at the helm, is a joy and they can obviously adapt well to anything that comes their way.
In times of commercial productions, it is refreshingly entertaining to see a festive show that provides non-stop laughs, ad-libs a plenty, great costumes, scenery and a wonderful cast that just oozes talent.
Dick Whittington and His Meerkat runs until January 24.