It’s almost inevitable that a pantomime housed in the Leicester Square Theatre downstairs space, and called Dick! Comes Again: Bigger, Longer, Harder, would be free of that pesky subtlety and nuance, instead crow-barring in as many cock jokes as two hours will permit.
Ultimately, the plot is irrelevant. (Which is lucky, because it contained more holes than the Dame’s knickers…). Queen Runt is escaping from the murky depths of showbiz hell, and is hell-bent on sabotaging Alice’s attempts to find her family-jewels, assisted by the sex-craved Dick (who feminism seemed to pass by without stopping) and his trusty pussy. Fairy Bell-End butts in occasionally, whilst the acid-tongued Sofonda Cox (say it out loud) watches on with an air of detachment.
Dick! is fully aware that it is by no means high-end theatre, and it is here that its power lies. Its homage to the fiftieth anniversary of the National Theatre gives a deliberate two fingers up to the theatrical establishment: this is a gloriously anarchic alternative. Actors provide off-the-cuff quips in an attempt to corpse each other on stage (sometimes succeeding), in a form of delightfully low-key and low-tech rehearsed spontaneity. This doesn’t mean that Dick! is not slick at times: the number ‘Something I’d Rather Be’ is a highlight, as was the audience participation dance number involving the front row’s Teemu from Finland (an unusual name is a godsend in panto, and they really should have him as a plant for the rest of the run…).
Some of Stuart Saint’s writing is eye-roll and tut worthy, but I’m sure Saint knows this. Yet amongst the slightly boorish Cockfosters ‘gags’ and overly long dildo routines are some genuinely laugh-out-loud lines. One audience member is accused of “gobbling more balls than a hungry hippo” while Sofonda Cox is described as looking like “Bette Davis post-stroke” (annoyingly, I wrote a similar line in my original notes).
Unsurprisingly, veteran drag queen Miss Dusty ‘O’ more than steals the show – she rams it down one of her various sequinned trouser suits like an expert shoplifter. Every leer, sneer and jeer is carefully measured and controlled to achieve ultimate comic effect. In a production full of, er, single-entendres, she is the only unpredictable element; she prowls the space like the diva she is with the experience and quick-wit to pounce on any audience member (my hair was likened to a Fraggle Rock convention, for instance). The rest of the cast play merrily along, with Nick Read doing his best Antonio-Banderas-as-Puss-in-Boots-in-Shrek impression, but this ultimately and fabulously is Dusty O’s show. Just a couple more outlandish costume changes would have created drag perfection.
Dick! is “not for the faint-hearted, easily offended or shockable”, the show’s leaflet warns. It is however suitable for those who fancy a bit of a non-taxing giggle, and it is on this basis that I can recommend it.
Dick! Comes Again… is playing at the Leicester Square Theatre until 19 January 2014. For more information and tickets, see the Leicester Square Theatre website.