GT Stage

Dusty O's adult Panto

Who doesn't love a bit of Dick?

There's a moment in Dick! when faded showgirl Sofonda Cox is facing off against the vampy villain Queen Runt: "You're not evil," Sofonda ad-libbed, rapidly prodding her fake boob to indicate herself. "I have worked with Jeremy Joseph!" And the audience duly panto-hissed at the mention of His Grand Highness of G-A-Y, then laughed in surprise at themselves. You can sum up the whole show with this moment: it's knowing, catty, fun and just in-jokey enough to feel warmly inclusive. Dick!'s humour is very London-centric, with it's tongue wedged in someone's cheek - and with the amount of rimming jokes in it, it may be the other set of cheeks being referred to. Filthy doesn't do it justice; it's like someone's resurrected the ghost of Talbot Rothwell, shown him the Internet video '2 Girls 1 Cup' on repeat then slapped a pen in his hand and yelled 'Write!' So Leicester Square's very own dark room of a theatre is the perfect venue, with the thrifty set made of the same pre-splattered plywood as a gay sauna. In fact the production is so cheap that, when an 18-inch dildo is brought on as a prop, you're wondering which one of the production team gamely brought it
in from home.

Sofonda Cox is played by Dusty O, billed as 'Soho's most famous face'. Though you can't tell from the poster; her face has been airbrushed to a RuPaul-esque sheen. I'm sure there's a nose in there, but buggered if I can see it. This is billed as the West End stage debut of the starlet, though this isn't indicative that you should be expecting a drop in professionalism: Dame O does a lovely turn as the panto dame that's shameless enough to fill the stage yet gracious enough to give everyone else enough space to shine. Nathaniel Tapley's Dave the Cat is an delight, wryly implying that this nonsense is utterly beneath him. Dusty tries the same trick a few times, but while you can see Tapley as a world-weary Mecutio, it takes quite a lot of imagination to see that Dusty's Saturday night alternative doesn't involve X Factor and a fish supper - which makes it all the funnier.

Dame O is backed by three glamorous gals: the hapless Fairy Bell-End (Laura Hyde) intent on crowbarring in as many Claire-from-Steps jokes as humanly possible, the villainess  Queen Runt (Lucyelle Cliffe) played with so much relish you expect a burger to come with it, and the extremely talented Rae Brogan playing swagged-up rapper Alice. Only Gary Albert Hughes playing the titular Dick doesn't lift his one-note character to the level of everyone else. Yes, Dick is oddly flaccid.

Fortunately this is the only slight bum note in the production. Dick! is so entertaining, you do kind of wish that this could be seen by the audience of a larger west end theatre, but the intimacy of this venue works too much in its favour. And due to this, the chances are quite high you will get picked on to join in. If you've got any kind of stage fright, don't sit in the front row, or anywhere near the aisle like I did; I was grabbed by the Fairy Bell-End and brought up on stage to prance around as a knight in shining armour to Bonnie Tyler's I Need A Hero. Does this mean I now have to include my own performance in the review? How meta. 'Two stars, a bit wooden and clearly drunk'.

What is so nice about this is that the cast are having as much fun as the audience, corpsing and ad-libbing along. It's great, filthy, childish entertainment: get yourself some Dick! in Leicester Square as soon as you can.

4 stars

Dick! is on at Leicester Square Theatre

Words: Lee Binding

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