Laughter comes Simple for Simon

The cast of Dick Whittington and his Cat at Oundle's Stahl Theatre

The cast of Dick Whittington and his Cat at Oundle's Stahl Theatre

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If I see anything funnier than Simon Aylin’s performances in Dick Whittington and his Cat over the festive period, then I will be having a very happy Christmas.

Former Peterborough panto favourite Simon, who nurtured his talent more than two decades ago in the Key Youth Theatre, wrote and directed the show, which ran for five performances at Oundle’s Stahl Theatre over the weekend.

And, it has to be said, bagged the best parts.

His tongue-in-cheek King Rat - arch-emeny to the hero of the piece Dick - was far from the sterotypical panto villain.

Wearing an outrageous wig and big furry jacket, he swapped menace for wind-ups to great acclaim from the audience young and old, not least when he told them what he’d done to their drinks and sweets at the interval!!

Yet he managed to top that with his Simple Simon, who was simply and effortlessly hilarious. Yes, there were lots of corny jokes but he certainly knows how to work the audience - and he clearly doesn’t take himself too seriously.

The “If I Was Not....” routine with him on the wrong end of a truncheon, boxing gloves and cricket bat was panto at its best and wonderfully executed - worth going to see on its own.

The other highlight was a sweetshop scene shared with Michael Cross - also sorely missed at this time of year at the Key. This consumate dame played Sarah The Cook with the same style, professionalism and posh frocks as ever - very cheeky but never crude.

Another great performance from the dame of dames.

Dick (Jonathon Carlton) and Alice (Pippa Higgs) both sang well, and together with Fairy (Louise Russell) kept the story - or what there was of one in between the comic capers of Simon and Michael - moving along nicely.

And the 20 or so youngsters from Simon’s Telling Tales Theatre Saturday School in Oundle all played their part in a simple but thoroughly entertaining two-hour romp, with special mention for Ella Grundy, who played Tommy the Cat with gusto.