A few years ago I tried to explain ‘pantomime’ to some Americans. Thirty minutes, lots of diagrams, and some very confused faces later, I don’t think we were any closer to them grasping it.
“And this is a FAMILY show?” they asked, minds blown. Yes, mostly. Some are a little raunchier than others. There’s a bit of innuendo, a bit of slapstick seaside-postcard naughtiness and an overly large codpiece or two – if you’re lucky.
And then there’s Dick! at the Leicester Square Theatre: hands down (pants down, probably more appropriate) the most extraordinarily filthy fairytale in all of panto-land.
It’s an absolute riot of political incorrectness and balls-out – not literally, I think you need a special licence for that – hilarity.
Expecting smut? Dick! is downright verbally pornographic.
Some of London’s above-pub adult pantos claim a “cult following” but this one’s surely unrivalled as the city’s number one. Some shows drain laughs from every hiccup: being ad-libbed or under-rehearsed has become part of the charm.
Dick! is relentlessly funny, fast-paced and its uproariously filthy dialogue is delivered pitch-and-word-perfectly. It’s writer and director Stuart Saint’s unexpectedly sophisticated script that pushes this above and beyond the rest and earns it a place in a 400-seater central London theatre.
To set the scene: in both fiction and reality, I suppose, we’re in the rapidly gentrifying streets of sleazy S’HoHo. Queen Runt (Lucy Grainger) is making plans to knock down existing haunts and replace them with a variety of chain stores, including her delightful-sounding and non-copyright infringing cafe, Crusty Bean.
Buxom Essex bird Alice Fitznicely (Rachael Born, so funny the others struggle to keep a straight face) and her aunt Sofonda Cox (no relation to your reviewer.. probably) run the last den of iniquity in town, with the nympho Alice also having the small matter of a padlocked chastity belt to deal with.
Enter Dick – or so he hopes. Rhys Owen’s foul-mouthed sleazebag hopes to save the day, but more importantly, get the girl.
The world’s worst fairy, Bell-End (Paula Masterton), also loves Dick.
Dick’s got a lady-friend dressed as a cat dressed as a lady, called Dave (Rae Brogan) who we have to tell to f**k off a lot, and at one point they all get in a Leaky Vessel up Streaky Crack in search of the family jewels and a key to unlock Alice’s clanking barrier to eternal bliss, revealing a big surprise on the way.
The plot is largely irrelevant, to be honest. We’re here for the outrageous gags, sick songs, and to see the razor-sharp ‘80s and ‘90s Soho legend Dusty O/ David Hodge as Sofonda Cox be as horrendously rude as possible.
He’s on incredible form, wearing only marginally less makeup and sequins than the last great Dame I saw on the Leicester Square Theatre’s stage, Joan Collins.
Dick!’s only flaw is that Hodge isn’t on stage anywhere near enough.
We’re warned that this show isn’t for the faint hearted or the easily offended and that’s nothing short of an understatement.
A fourteen inch black sex toy gets waved around, we’re encouraged to “scream if we’re a ho, even louder if we’re homos” (the second scream was louder, FYI), and Sofonda, done up like “Bette Davis after a stroke”, dishes out insults to the crowd even faster than she changes costume.
I’m fairly new to the adult pantomime scene (it’s swelling, apparently), and to be honest wasn’t quite sure what to expect.
I work in a university by day, where our students are newly obsessed with “safe spaces”- no events involving stereotypes, uncomfortable language or picking on anyone, allowed. I spent most of Dick! wondering what they’d make of it all.
Turns out adult panto-land has very, very different rules to everywhere else.
“Bloated bum bandits” is a term of endearment and, if you’re a bloke in a dress, you’re allowed to call a trans lady in the front row “he, she, thingy” then drag them up on stage and put them in a fat-suit for a dance.
There is literally no sexual act too perverted to mention. There’s a time and a place and an audience up for it – VERY up for it – and this is most definitely it.
And I really do hope “well f**k a pig and call me Dave!” enters the popular lexicon.
If you’d really like to see a stonking great Dick!, visit Leicester Square Theatre before December 30.
Dick! is relentlessly funny, fast-paced and and its uproariously filthy dialogue is delivered pitch-and-word-perfect.