Dick Whittington And His Cat Become Part Of The Windrush Generation At Hackney Empire
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Choosing a Christmas panto from the myriad seasonal treats on offer in London can be difficult. Few are likely to share the pedigree of the Hackney Empire's creative team: writer and director Susie McKenna and composer Steven Edis have been putting on panto for 21 years.
This year's offering delivers all the traditional elements with a contemporary theme that reaches out to Londoners in these troubled times.
The show is joyous and spectacular, but also heartfelt. Dick Whittington arrives in the UK from Jamaica, on the Empire Windrush — answering a call from the motherland to come and rebuild Britain after World War II. As a young Jamaican in 1940s London he faces unemployment and homelessness, to become mayor of London. The tale is inspired by the real life story of Sam Beaver King, who came to Britain on the Empire Windrush and became mayor of Southwark.
For a show that reaches out to the local community, it has some serious acting talent. Olivier award-winning Clive Rowe makes his 13th pantomime dame appearance at the Hackney Empire. His outrageously coutured Sarah the Cook had us squirming in our seats desperate to avoid being singled out for attention. Leading man Tarrinn Callender, previously in Hamilton, has a serious singing voice and the company are put through some energetic dance routines.
On the night we visited the plush auditorium was packed with excited Londoners of all ages who were more than willing to join in with boos, hisses and pussy cat poses. We left the theatre wishing it could be Christmas more often.
Dick Whittington and his Cat, Hackney Empire, Mare Street, E8 1EJ, £10-£38. 23 November-5 January
Last Updated 05 December 2019