Dick Whittington's the cat's pyjamas

WHEN Dick Whittington hears that the streets of London are paved with gold, he sets out with his loyal cat in the hope of making his fortune.

But instead of finding money and fame in his nation's capital, he discovers a city infested with rats.

The classic story of how Dick saves London and meets the love of his life is the subject of a new version of the Dick Whittington pantomime entitled Dick Whittington and His Cat, being played at the Encore Theatre in Clayton.

Encore is introducing a new generation to the pantomime form, which is more familiar to English audiences and older Australians. Pantomimes are musical stage shows based on folk tales. They use slapstick, music and rely on the element of surprise derived from actors playing their opposite genders.

The show's director, theatre veteran Christine Simmonds, says the production encourages people to hold onto their dreams. This is the fourth pantomime the Ferntree Gully resident has directed.

"It's one of my pet loves," Mrs Simmonds says.

She says there are tricks to putting on a good show. "I think you have to be prepared to be silly and you have to encourage your cast to be silly because it's very over the top — big costumes, big songs, big characters," she says. 

"A lot of people don't know how much work goes behind putting on a show like this, but I think they certainly appreciate the end result."

The show features a cast of 22 actors who range from theatre veterans to first-timers. Dick is played by Karina Hudson while his cat is taken on by Matthew Chaloupka-Wagner.

"It is difficult but it's amazing what children and people will believe. After five minutes they actually believe that the man playing the woman is a woman and the girl playing the boy is a boy and that the person playing the cat is actually a cat," Mrs Simmonds says.

Dick Whittington and His Cat will be playing at the Clayton Community Centre Theatrette on Cooke Street in Clayton, this Thursday to Sunday, at 11am and 2pm. Cost: $10. Details: 1300 739 099.

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