While Dick Whittington may have been on the Everyman Theatre’s stage before – Tweedy himself has starred in the rags to riches story of London’s first mayor six times – this year’s version of the popular pantomime promises to be different, as SoGlos discovered in an exclusive interview with Tweedy and panto writer Sam Holmes.
‘It's the most adventurous and exciting version of Dick Whittington I think you'll have seen in a long time because we've twisted it on its head,’ explains Holmes – who many will recognise as often playing the panto baddie, but this year stars as Fairy Bowbells.
‘This is the story of Gloucestershire’s own Richard Whittington – this is your story!’ he continues. ‘We've got all of the usuals that you'd expect from a pantomime – the wonderful satire and comedy and jokes, with what's been going on this year politically, we just can't write quick enough! It's definitely the funniest panto yet!
‘We have to treat the story with great respect because it's a true story, but we have changed the angle slightly… it is a very lavish pantomime, full of sequins and colour – starting in Gloucester and moving to the hustle and bustle of London and then to the far off shores of Morocco,' he continued.
Asked why this year's pantomime at the Cheltenham theatre is special, Holmes replied: 'To come back after Jack and the Beanstalk, which was the first post-Covid pantomime, this year we're all sort of shaking off the shackles of doom and gloom a little bit.
‘People have got new worries with everything that’s been going on at the moment and I really think this pantomime will take them away from it all for two hours… I think more than ever we need laughter and joy, don't we?’ And ‘the theatre’s heated, so that's good. You can turn off your radiators at home for two hours and go somewhere warm!’ Holmes jokes – giving an insight into the sort of irreverent and topical humour Everyman audiences are in for this year!
And, as well as central heating, there’s also a big milestone for one member of the cast – with Tweedy celebrating his 30th year in pantomime this year. ‘I left school in 1992 and my first job was pantomime,’ he explains. ‘But this year I’m playing the cat, which is something I’ve never done before. I’ve always wanted to, and this year they let me!’
Questioned how he keeps his performance fresh for three decades, Tweedy shared: ‘Every performance is completely different… in pantomime there's no fourth wall and the audience is so involved, it's like they are other cast members… You never know how they're going to react.
‘The great thing this year is we can push it even
further – I’m going to go into the audience just because I can! It’s going to
be chaos!’ he laughed.
‘The costumes this year are even better than they were last year too,’ Holmes adds. ‘Sarah the Cook’s outfits are a riot! Some of them are really stunning Ru Paul-esque designs and then some of the others are very Les Dawson!’.
And, is there anything else audiences can expect? ‘I have some stunts… a hoverboard with a surprise element to it!’ Tweedy revealed.
Musical fans are in for a treat too with some big vocal numbers
in store, ‘Dick Whittington is played by Cleve September, who was in the
original London Hamilton, he is a huge West End star, we are so lucky to get him,
and we've got Laura Denning, another West End legend playing Queen Rat, so the
music will be really key this year,’ Holmes said.
With Tweedy adding: ‘Plus, we have TikTok sensations, Brooke Blewitt and Jess Qualter, who created the dance to Louis Theroux’s song 'Jiggle, Jiggle', which went completely viral and it’s now a Fortnite dance. So, look out for that!’
Dick Whittington and His Cat Tweedy is on stage at the Everyman Theatre from Friday 25 November 2022 to Sunday 8 January 2023.
See Dick Whittington and his Cat Tweedy at the Everyman Theatre for more information, and visit everymantheatre.org to book tickets.