TuckShop’s production of Dick Whittington, starring Kitty Scott-Claus, Choriza May, Cheryl Hole, Karen From Finance and Elektra Fence, has opened at London’s Phoenix Theatre.

We’ve been fans of the TuckShop for a while now. We caught their all-drag Cinderella panto back in 2019, and also their self-styled ‘Dragatha Christie murder mystery’ Death Drop in 2020 and again this year. We checked out a couple of shows at their festival of drag at the Garrick Theatre this summer and attended their Sickening ’90s Drag Prom night at the Underbelly too. These shows have variously featured a whole host of well-known queens including Willam, Latrice Royale, Baga Chipz, Myra Dubois and more besides. Their latest offering features a quintet of queens drawn from Drag Race UK and Down Under, alongside a diverse range of drag artists.

We should caveat this review by saying that we attended the very first performance of the show, as opposed to the press night, and that things may be a bit slicker by the time the show officially opens. However, we would – being diplomatic – say that it doesn’t currently suffer from being over-rehearsed. This is a pretty chaotic and ramshackle affair, with missed cues, slipped lines, multiple scenery and lighting malfunctions and more besides. The show is full of comedy queens who are able to style these mishaps out, but it does begin to grate when it happens more than a couple of times. One particularly cringe moment involved Elektra literally stopping the play and shouting “line!” into the wings.

With that out of the way – we’re pleased to report that Dick Whittington is actually really great fun. While there are of course lots of predictable gags around the name Dick, there are also some genuinely unexpected and laugh-out-loud funny punchlines in Gareth Joyner’s script. This show also contains some lip sync numbers with surprising but effective song choices, and moments of impressive choreography. There are some silly set pieces, including a messy rendition of 12 Days of Christmas (we’d seen a similar sketch previously in TuckShop’s Cinderella) which was a real crowd pleaser.

While each queen is given a moment to shine, we felt that Kitty and Choriza really stole the show – they’re both so likeable and exude a natural warmth. Kitty as the Spirit of Soho is delightfully camp and has expert comic timing; whether breaking the fourth wall by narrating her own stage directions, or slipping into a Gemma Collins or Cilla Black impression, she’s just a delight to watch and really commands the stage. Choriza as Queen Rat is a wonderfully overblown villain, with entertaining jokes around her accent and references to iconic moments from her time on Drag Race.

We also enjoyed the variety of drag talent on the stage – of course the headline names are all well-known queens from Drag Race, but there are lots of great artists in this show, including drag kings Beau Jangles (excellent as Mayor of Soho) and Richard Energy (amusing as the sex shop owner). Yshee Black stars as the entertainingly coarse Dame Sarah and we really warmed to Ophelia Love as ensemble member number four (an impressive feat for a show which only has three ensemble members) – she clearly has a lot of fun with this deliberately terrible part.

There’s a lot to like in this show – fans of Drag Race and pop culture in general will find plenty to enjoy here. In terms of Drag Race there are many very obvious nods – including a ‘lip sync for your life’ segment, set up quoting Ru’s words verbatim – and some subtler nods, such as a cute reference to BDE choreography. As far as pop culture goes, it almost feels as though they’ve infused every popular meme and gif from the Twittersphere from the last decade into this show. Brenda from Bristol? What a sad little life, Jane? They’re all alluded to in a variety of entertaining ways. There are some clever sprinklings of politics and social commentary too – Brexit and the north/south divide get a look in – which are dealt with in good humour.

We had a lot of fun with Dick Whittington – this is far from the slickest or most polished show in town, but it hardly matters when it’s this entertaining. It didn’t quite grab us in the same way that the rollercoaster ride of Death Drop did, but it feels like a step up from their Cinderella panto in terms of scale and ambition. It really is a tremendously fun night out, and camp as Christmas too – if you’re looking for a panto to put you in the festive spirit, look no further.

GAY TIMES gives Dick Whittington – 4/5

More information can be found here.