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The Adventures of Dick Whittington & His Cat at Wembley Community Centre

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Pantomime hits the right note with clever cat who’s all that
Dick Whittington and His Cat, pantomime, Wembley Theatre Company, performing arts, Wembley Community Centre, kids, children, family, stage
Dick Whittington (Suzie Croston, right) and the cat Charlemagne (Matt Penny) have the title roles in the popular pantomime.


Wembley Theatre Company is "feline fine" with its annual pantomime, The Adventures of Dick Whittington & His Cat. Written by Tony Nicholls and directed by Bryce Manning at the Wembley Community Centre, the story follows Dick after he gets kicked out of home and decides to head to London.

On his way, he encounters a smart-talking cat and meets and instantly falls in love with Alice Fitzwarren. Dick wants to marry Alice – but so does the nasty Squire Crow – and he faces numerous challenges in his pursuit of Alice. After saving a fairy from King Rat, Dick is also rewarded and becomes Mayor of London.

Dick Whittington and His Cat, pantomime, Wembley Theatre Company, performing arts, Wembley Community Centre, kids, children, family, stage
Charlemagne (Matt Penny, left), Queen Fluffykins (Grace Harvey) and Fluffy (Russell Jones) in Dick Whittington and His Cat.

"Tony Nicholls has stuck very close to the story we are all familiar with," Bryce said. "As with his other 20-plus pantomimes, there are always a few diversions with new intriguing characters but the core of the story still revolves around Dick Whittington, the cat, Alice and the journey to London."

The story of Dick Whittington actually stems from a true story – he was alive between 1350 and 1423 and was Lord Mayor of London in 1397, 1406 and 1419. He was also a successful textile merchant. Debate rages over whether he actually had a cat or if it was a euphemism for something else.

Dick Whittington and His Cat, pantomime, Wembley Theatre Company, performing arts, Wembley Community Centre, kids, children, family, stage
Dick Whittington (Suzie Croston, left) fights for the love of Alice Fitzwarren (Marisha Davies) against the nasty Squire Crow (Peter Niblett).


Bryce is also stepping up to the stage in the show for a brief but crucial moment. "I play one of Dick's brothers, who kicks him out of his home," he said. "It's a very minor role but it's three minutes of the show you won't forget."

Involved in acting, directing and theatre teaching since 1984, Bryce trained as an actor at the University of Western Sydney before moving back to Perth to start his teaching career. He formed the Wembley Theatre Company in 1996 and has been producing, directing, writing and acting in the company's annual productions for the past 25 years. The company's version of Old Mother Hubbard won a Finley Award for best production in 1997.

"I love Tony Nicholls' pantomimes," Bryce said. "They have the perfect amount of jokes, songs and pace to keep a modern audience entertained."

Dick Whittington and His Cat, pantomime, Wembley Theatre Company, performing arts, Wembley Community Centre, kids, children, family, stage
Dick Whittington (Suzie Croston, right) instantly falls in love with Alice Fitzwarren (Marisha Davies) but needs guidance from the cat Charlemagne (Matt Penny, centre).


Suzie Croston plays the lead role of Dick Whittington. "The main challenge is making myself appear younger than I am for the part," she said. "I also have to learn a scene in act two where all I say is 'but', 'what', 'where' and 'why'. For me, these are the hardest bits of acting – monologues are the easy part!"

Originally working behind the scenes with Wembley Theatre Company, Suzie was one day thrown a script for Mother Goose and asked to read for the part of the fox. In the past decade she has previously worked as a scene painter, prop-maker, backstage manager and costume seamstress and, away from theatre, played keyboards in a band.

Dick Whittington and His Cat, pantomime, Wembley Theatre Company, performing arts, Wembley Community Centre, kids, children, family, stage
It's game on for Squire Crow (Peter Niblett, left) and Dick (Suzie Croston) in Dick Whittington and His Cat.

"Coming from England I grew up with pantomime," Suzie said. "It's a Christmas tradition in the UK and each year we made a family booking to go and see whatever was on at the Mercury Theatre in Colchester. Pantomime is a bit of nostalgia for me and indulges my love for the over-the-top ridiculousness of the whole show. It's great to be able to overact and be larger than life."

Dick Whittington and His Cat plays at 7pm October 15, 22 and 29 and 2pm October 16, 17, 23, 24, 30 and 31. Tickets are $20, $15 concession – book at www.trybooking.com/BUBZN. The pantomime is showing at the Wembley Community Centre, 40 Alexander Street, Wembley.


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Why? The sole purpose of pantomime is to make you laugh, dance and sing your heart out – and Dick Whittington and His Cat delivers all this in spades.
When: 7pm October 15, 22 & 29; 2pm October 16, 17, 23, 24, 30 & 31
Where: Wembley Community Centre, 40 Alexander Street, Wembley
Cost: $20, $15 concession
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