22 May 2017 | 10 °C

The Christmas Panto You Don't Want To Take Your Kids To

Charming Dick, The Cockpit Theatre ★★★☆☆

The Christmas Panto You Don't Want To Take Your Kids To Charming Dick, The Cockpit Theatre 3

The Royal Vauxhall Tavern Christmas panto is almost as much of an institution as the venue itself. This is the first time the queer panto has left the pub; Charming Dick has decanted to The Cockpit theatre.

Combining a talented cast of five, a wardrobe budget that barely stretches to Oxfam, a weak script and more innuendo than you can shake a… Dick at, this is an entertaining evening... if a little cringeworthy at times.

In the lead role, Alistair Frederick really takes his Big Dick in hand. This initially flaccid character really gains strength as the muddled plot combining almost every known panto plot progresses. Dick runs from his native Liverpool to seek fame and fortune in London under the watchful eye of his aunt Twanky (silent T). Played by Tim McArthur, tWankey is a traditional pantomime dame who almost knows her lines. Looking like the lovechild of Harambe and Geri Halliwell, tWankey's contorting face and ad lib jokes give strength to an otherwise impotent script.

Inexplicably reeking of talc and grannies is Charming played by Stewart Briggs dressed in more damask than a nursing home sofa. Clopping around on a mop with ears, Briggs gives Charming the same snivelling, moist-eyed sex appeal that is curiously attributed to Hugh Grant. Charmin's realisation that he loves Dick culminates in more semen than HMS Pinafore.

The glue holding it all together is the multi-character-playing Abigail Carter-Simpson who may have been inadvertently correct when, pointing out she went to RADA, she said she was "too good for this shit".

But stealing the show as Evil Witch, despite dresses far too long for soon-to-be-defunct EU textile standards legislation, is Matthew Jones, the male-ish half of Frisky & Mannish. Paul Emulsion Daly's script needs enough adrenaline to bring a burger back to life and Jones is holding the syringe. From gestures to improvised one-liners Jones snaps his fingers until the limelight is focused squarely on his warty, mangled face that occasionally features prosthetics.

Keeping the whole thing running with comic aplomb, a piano, cymbal and slide whistle is musician Patrick Rufey.

Panto is an age-old tradition and with current political tides, a queer panto has never felt more needed. Moving the production out of its home spoils the intimacy and atmosphere even though The Cockpit is aptly named and sized. The talent of the cast means the forgotten lines, improvised jokes, and ad-lib quips elevate an otherwise amateur production into something warm-hearted and fun. By all means see it and support it — just don't bring the kids.

Charming Dick is showing at The Cockpit Theatre until 23 December. Tickets £12/£16/£18. Londonist saw this show on a complimentary ticket.

Last Updated 09 December 2016