Mark Ravenhill and other members of the creative team and cast revealed what was in store for audiences of Dick Whittington And His Cat at the Barbican (29 November 2006–20 January 2007) at a press briefing this morning.
Writing a family panto is a surprising new direction for Ravenhill who is best known for his controversial plays such as debut Shopping And F**king, which included simulated sex and drug-taking, and Mother Clap's Molly House, a play which centres around a male brothel. But he made it clear that his new offering would not be in the same vein. “What I’ve been really keen to do was to write a pantomime for the family, much to people’s surprise: that’s something I’d like to nail on the head today. If anybody’s thinking, ‘Oh it’s Mark, so what he’ll be wanting to do is send up pantomime, parody pantomime, make a rude pantomime in some way’, that’s absolutely not what I wanted to do.” He added that it would be aimed not at adults but at children. “Hopefully the parents have a good time too, but I don’t want anything to go over the kids’ heads. I want the kids to have the time of their life and to have that magical first experience of pantomime that I did.”
Edward Hall, director, reiterated that pantomime should be aimed at children and so they hoped to “produce a show which is first and foremost for the kids but also sweeps the adults along.” He said that the script strikes “a wonderful balance between panto, anarchy and serious story” and that he “wanted to explore good old fashioned anarchy in the theatre myself. The last time I was here was directing Julius Caesar, so it’s a great chance for me to come back into this wonderful space to do a far more serious show which carries a lot more responsibility.”
Rather than use commercial hit songs or a score from one person, the songs have been commissioned from different composers: Jim Bob, Kit Hesketh Harvey, Dillie Keane, Issy van Randwyk, Sarah Travis and Antony Dunn.
Roger Lloyd Pack, who is playing Sarah the Cook, revealed why he took the part of the dame: “I’ve always had it in the back of my head that I’d rather like to wear women’s clothes.” He added that he was “rather thrilled and scared” at the prospect.
The full cast is: Debbie Chazen (Fairy), Derek Elroy (Tommy the Cat), Miles Jupp (Lemon – Ship’s Second Mate), Sam Kelly (Alderman Fitzwarren), Roger Lloyd Pack (Sarah the Cook), Toby Sedgwick (Port – Ship’s First Mate), Caroline Sheen (Alice), Summer Strallen (Dick Whittington) and Danny Worters (Jack).
The creative team is Mark Ravenhill (playwright), Edward Hall (director), Sarah Travis (arrangements and musical direction), Michael Howells (designer), Ben Ormerod (lighting), Matt McKenzie (sound), Emma Tunmore (choreography), Toby Sedgwick (movement direction) and Alasdair Monteith (fight direction).