When Dick Whittington hears that the streets of London are paved with gold, he sets out with his loyal cat to make his fortune.
Instead of finding money and fame in his nation's capital, he discovers a rat-infested city. The classic story of how Dick saves London and meets the love of his life is the subject of a new pantomime at the Encore Theatre in Clayton.
Encore is introducing a new generation to the pantomime, a form that 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, Ferntree Gully resident and theatre veteran Christine Simmonds, said the production encouraged people to hold onto their dreams.
This is the fourth pantomime Simmonds has directed — "it's one of my pet loves and we've found it appeals to a wide audience".
She said there were 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.
"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, 25, and the role of the cat is taken on by 22-year-old Matthew Chaloupka-Wagner.
"It's difficult but it's amazing what children and people will believe," Simmonds said. "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."
She encouraged locals to come along to the play. "It's just about going and getting caught up in all the magic of theatre and the stories and just enjoying yourself. It's great entertainment for the kids and for grandparents."
Dick Whittington will be playing at the Clayton Community Centre Theatrette in Cooke Street from Thursday-Sunday at 11am and 2pm. Cost: $10. Details: 1300 739 099.