Following a most magical production of Cinderella last Christmas, Qdos Productions return to The Bristol Hippodrome this December with the ultimate tale of rags to riches - Dick Whittington.

With promises to thrill audiences throughout the festive season, this pantomime is fun for all the family. The set, costumes and staging will be brought over from the acclaimed production at the London Palladium but with a brand-new script. Leading the show is someone who is very used to playing alongside a 'Cat', soap-legend and musical theatre star Shane Richie. He plays the show's hero up against the villainous character of Queen Rat, played by CBeebies favourite Jennie Dale.  

Kavita Ashton and Lacey Trotman caught up with the pair at the pantomime's launch.

Cast of Dick Whittington Credit Bristol Hippodrome
Image Credit: Bristol Hippodrome

Well, can you believe it is that time of year already?

Jennie: I know. It's so weird how you're enjoying summer then, in the space of what feels like three days, you start to feel cold and begin talking about Pantomime! 

Shane: You say that, I was talking about panto as soon as I finished the one last year. At the end of every pantomime I say no more! I'm wiped out. I'm done. I'm finished. I'm tired. I need to sleep for a year. But when they said to me, 'listen - how do you fancy going to Bristol?' this was around the second week of January and I said 'yep, OK, I'm happy!'. So even then I was talking about it. When you jump on the panto train - two shows a day, every day - it flies by. 

This is the first time I'm away from home. I'll have all my family with me, which will be great; they're normally in the panto with me... they've done nearly every panto with me since they were born! My eldest sons are in the business now and that was their introduction to it. 

What is your first memory of pantomime?

Jennie: Well, my first memory of panto was one I did when I was very little. I was a babe, which is what they used to call the children's ensemble. I think I was six and it was with Christopher Biggins, performing at Theatre Royal. I remember auditioning and we were all standing in a line and if you weren't the right height you weren't going to get it. I remember it so clearly! It was really thick snow and my dad dragged me on the sledge from my house to the theatre. A desperate six year old, distraught she wasn't going to get to wear her little lycra dress with the fluffy snowflakes on!  

Shane: My first memory of going to see a professional panto was when I was in London. I remember just being mesmerised by the magic on stage. I grew up going to the theatre. I loved going to the theatre, especially musicals and the classics - but seeing panto and the interaction, breaking that fourth wall - the hard part is making it look easy! I've worked with some greats over the years and I do my best to make it look as easy as them; then the audience feel comfortable. You've got to work hard at that ... 

The audience are just as much as part of the show.

Shane cont.: Oh in my show they are another member of the cast. I pride myself on the fact that no two shows are the same - it starts as Dick Whittington, but it might finish as Peter Pan! 

That was my next question! From that, are you able to tell us your best panto story?

Shane: There are loads of times where I've started to ad-lib. I've seen people, the rest of the cast in the wings, looking at me going 'where's Shane going with this?!'. There was one time in particular, I remember walking off stage and for some reason I took five members of the audience with me and walked out of the theatre. Out of the theatre, in to the street. It was funny - but then we couldn't get back in! I'm mic-ed up going 'hello, can someone let us in?' and people thought it was part of the routine. We were actually locked out of the theatre. It felt like half an hour but it was probably just minutes. That was quite embrassing but then people would be saying 'Oh, you've got to see Shane. He takes people out of the show!'. Actually, I might do it this year...

We’ve been told to expect a show to really wow the audience this year – especially as the set has come from the London Palladium. Are you able to tell us a bit more?

Shane: When I was told by Michael Harrison, who works on the West End and produces all of my pantos, that we're going to Bristol and bringing the Palladium set I said 'You're joking? It won't work'. There are very few theatres that can take the effects that this show has got to offer, but this is actually one of them. It is big enough to do. 

Wait until you see the end of act one. 

Jennie: You really are getting the best of the best. This incredible show, that's come from the West End stage: the design, the costume to set. The whole package is really quite special. 

Shane, back in 2007, you made a guest appearance in hit TV show Skins. The series was, of course, almost entirely filmed in Bristol.

Shane: You're the second person to remind me of that, it's weird. I guess because it was filmed in Bristol, you're very proud - and you should be, I loved it. Whatever happened to Nicholas Hoult?! Yes, I played some drama teacher. Funnily enough, I remember coming down here to film and underestimating how popular it was. Even now, people ask me to sign the box sets. 

I remember talking to Harry Enfield about it... even now, if we bump in to eachother we talk about Skins and our experience of it. It was great! Funnily enough, I only am reminded about it when I come to Bristol.

Is there anything you're looking forward to doing/visiting whilst you’re here for the next two months?

Shane: Last time I was here, I was in the Peter James play - Not Dead Enough. I used to go around some of the antique markets. They are fantastic. I had forgetton, how beautfiul some of the little lanes are. I love looking for antique books. But you've got a wonderful shopping mall as well. So, I'll be spending time in Zara and looking for classic books. Also, you've got a Forbidden Planet?

Yes, on Park Street. 

Shane: Yes, I'll be there! 

Jennie: I did my first ever professional job here. In 1995, it was Scrooge: The Musical and I then came back a few year later with Summer Holiday: The Musical. So, it's quite a long time ago that I was last here and I just had a little wander around. It's so funny how I turned a corner and recognised a building and I remember the (Bristol Hippodrome) stage door really clearly. It's been a lovely trip down memory lane. 

Jennie, you are favourite as Captain Captain in CBeebies' Swashbuckle -

Jennie: I am - ahoy there! 

- but did you know, infamous pirate Blackbeard was from Bristol? 

Jennie: I didn't! Oh, with all my pirating knowledge that is really bad. My own character would tell me off, I'd be in so much trouble. Probably have to throw some slop over myself! 

Local company, Show of Strength do their Blood, Blackbeard and Buccaneers tour, you should try that whilst you're here. 

Jennie: Oh my goodness, I'm going to have to get my costume out aren't I. Can you imagine me just peering around the corner scaring those on the tour! 

Shane, as we all know, London has its own language – Cockney Rhyming Slang – but do you know any Bristolian phrases?

Shane (in a mock accent): I bloody do right! Actually, it's more just South West. Have you got some? 

Yes, 'Gert Lush'.

Shane: Going out on the lash? Oh lush, it must be something to do with being gorgeous. 

It's the highest compliment you could give something

Shane: Well, I'm waiting... 

We'll write it in your bio! Moving on, 'Ark at ee'

Shane: Is that if someone's being nasty?

Sort of, it's a phrase that brings attention to what someone is saying.

Shane: Oh really?! If I stuck some of these in the panto, would they get it?

Yes! Maybe you could use, 'Where you too?' or add ‘Mind’ to the end of everything! 

Shane: You know, I'm making mental notes for the panto now. When Dick gets lost he could say 'Where you too?'. I have noticed the 'mind' one. Wow, you're giving me material for free right now, thank you girls. 

For those visiting this winter, who have maybe never seen a pantomime before, can you sum up why they should give it a go?

Shane: Because you'll never see anything like it again. 

Jennie: The callibre of this show is pretty epic...a bit of a showstopper. Shane is hilarious, he really is ... with him leading our ship - that in itself is such a driving force. He'll bring the laughs, I'll bring the boos and hisses, and hopefully families can come and make some special memories. 

Dick Whittington Poster

Dick Whittington is at Bristol Hippodrome from 7 December - 5 January. Tickets are still available to some performances and can be purchased here

Related

The Bristol Hippodrome
Theatre
Bristol Hippodrome theatre inside

One of the country's top provincial theatres, which proudly continues to stage major West End and Broadway productions.

Dick Whittington at Bristol Hippodrome
Christmas
Dick Whittington at Bristol Hippodrome

The ultimate rags to riches story comes to Bristol Hippodrome this Christmas in the magical family pantomime Dick Whittington, led by soap-sensation and musical theatre star Shane Richie.