Review: Charming Dick

The Cockpit Theatre until 23rd Dec
4*
‘Charming Dick’ at the Cockpit Theatre reminded me of an elderly relative at Christmas, the references are a little nostalgic and the jokes sometimes inappropriate but their heart is in the right place and they can make you laugh like no one else.
The theatre itself is quite a large volume of space and the seats are raked down towards the stage so what would have worked in the informal setting of the RVT, with its stage raised above the din, seems a little lost in this space.
Despite this the performers bring everything that is wonderful about the cabaret scene into this theatrical space and in doing so unite the audience. By the end everyone is up on their feet participating and having as bawdy a festive outing as you could ask for on a rainy Wednesday in December.
The script is a joyfully confused mess of Panto fair which doesn’t miss any opportunity for innuendo and sets up all the characters’ games with the audience. Some of the best bits however are when they ‘mess up’ their lines, and I put that in quotations because a few of them seem planned. Whether this is true or not it opens up the real skills of performers who are used to playing it fast and loose.
Tim McArthur as Twanky (the ’T’ is silent) and Matthew Jones as the Evil Witch spar it out like Grand Dames of the drag scene and the rest of the troupe bring up the rear with endearing and sometimes hilarious turns. Alister Frederick is charmingly naive as the hero Dick and Stewart Briggs as the Prince has a charming, narcissistic swagger but still manages to be adorable. Abigail Carter-Simpson plays a multitude of roles with killer timing and has a fantastic rapport with the audience.
It’s a really funny show and it brings the familiar iconoclasm of the RVT community to a lovely Christmas tradition. As much as it’s pure filth it’s actually very heart warming and reminded me how proud we should be of London’s queer community and its resilience in the face of ‘Luxury Flats’.
The other surprise gift of the night was the singing. For a community that’s associated with Lip-synch, boy did they impress when it came to live singing. The histrionics of the ‘Mariah Off’ at the end was not only perfectly judged but a reminder how flawless all the musical numbers were throughout the show.
The performers got a standing ovation the night I went and I don’t doubt you’ll do the same when you go.
Running until the 23rd Dec.  Book here.
Review © John Fitzpatrick 2016
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