Alex Jackson on directing our Christmas panto Dick Whittington

Dick Whittington director Alex Jackson spills the beans on what he’s enjoying about collaborating with our creative team and Le Navet Bete, what you can expect from our show (don’t worry, no spoilers!), and why pantomime is so special.

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What are you looking forward to about working with this cast?

We’ve brought together some of the finest talent the South West has to offer (and a few from further afield). We have superb singers, hilarious comedians, and dedicated dancers. The thing I enjoy the most working with a cast of this calibre is that they encourage each other to up their game and challenge themselves to make each show better than the last. That is a really exciting rehearsal room to be in and the atmosphere will be electric when they’re on stage together.

What are this cast bringing to your version of Dick Whittington?

I think our take on Dick Whittington’s cat is very fun, and not necessarily what you’d expect from a pantomime cat. Le Navet Bete were in place from the beginning and around them we worked hard to find actors who are exceptional musical theatre performers, and have a wonderful glint in their eye and a tongue in their cheek. We know that if we’re having fun and making laughter in the rehearsal room that relationship will be reflected on stage too.

Alex Jackson, a young white man wearing a black and white floral pattern shirt, instructs actors during rehearsals for a theatre show in a black-walled studio space.
Photo by South West Theatre Photography
Alex Jackson, a young white man wearing a grey, yellow and white striped shirt, gives directions to a group of actors off screen while holding an iPad in a black-walled studio space.
Photo by Harry Elleston

How are you and the creative team reimagining Dick Whittington?

One of the great things about panto is that you get a core plot which tends to be a fairly well known tale, but you can write in additions and give things new coats of paint keeping the stories fresh for contemporary audiences every year. Our writers Daniel Buckroyd and Le Navet Bete have come up with a wonderful way to incorporate one of the biggest cultural phenomenons of the year into the story which I’m excited for audiences to see. It involves a couple of excellent puns, and Dick Whittington’s trusty cat who plays a key role in proceedings. We’ve also been working hard to make sure that our heroes can serve as excellent role models for children and adults alike in 2023.

What can people expect from your version of Dick Whittington?

Our show is heavily ladened with hilarity, and high production values but it also has a warm heart. I hope we can whisk people away from reality for a couple of hours and give the whole family a really fun evening of laughter. Plus our cast will be bringing you soaring vocals on recent pop hits as well as age-old classics and striking, energetic choreography. All the best stories have a strong moral grounding and a message to take away, so I hope we develop the emotional depth in the show to deliver that, too.

Why is regional pantomime important?

The regional differences and quirks of pantomime are part of what makes the art form so special. Some dames and comics have special shout outs, or catch phrases that they’ve developed over years and years. Some families have been coming to the same pantomime for so long that they’re now bringing their own children to pantomimes they used to watch when they were younger. It plays on the friendly rivalries between towns and cities, for example I’m sure Plymouth will get an honorary mention in Dick Whittington this year. It contributes to our sense of identity and community.

What does pantomime mean to you?

I grew up watching pantomimes at the Exeter Northcott in the early 2000s. I remember them vividly, and they sparked in me a life-long love of theatre. At every performance of a pantomime children (and even adults) who have never set foot in a theatre before, have their lives changed forever and discover the brilliance of live performance. Better still, often several generations get to share that experience together. So for me pantomime is about family. Laughing together, enjoying live entertainment and making memories that will last a life time.

Alex Jackson, a young white man wearing a black and white paisley pattern shirt, smiles whilst directing actors in a black-walled studio space.
Photo by Sean Hurlock

Thanks Alex! We can’t wait to see all the hilarious hijinks you come up with!

Dick Whittington runs at the Northcott from 30 November 2023 until 7 January 2024.

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