THE award-winning Highcliffe Charity Players are back with their much-anticipated annual new year show, Dick Whittington and His Cat - a panto they haven’t staged for over a decade.

The traditional story sees penniless Dick journey to London with his cat Tommy to seek fame and fortune.

He falls in love with Alice Fitzwarren the Alderman’s daughter and is confronted by the villainous King Rat. Forced to flee on the high seas with a motley crew, Dick is eventually washed up on the rat-infested shores of Arabia.

Staged at the Regent Centre in Christchurch, it promises to be classic panto at its finest, with HCP’s tried and tested formula of great sets, spectacular costumes and lively song and dance routines, combined with the usual quota of slapstick comedy and audience participation (oh yes you will!).

Returning to direct after a gap of over ten years, and continuing the family tradition, is ex-HCP chairman, Matthew Smith (his late father, Tony Smith co-founded the players in 1971 and was their renowned dame for 25 years).

Matthew said: “It’s very gratifying to be back directing the players again, I’ve proudly watched the company go from strength to strength. The legendary Dick Whittington and his inseparable cat is a great story, a perennial favourite among panto-goers that has delighted generations. I’ve loved the excitement and fun of panto since a child, so I guarantee there will be plenty of silly humour and spectacle for youngsters to hiss and cheer at.”

And there’s another family connection – Matthew’s 17-year-old Stanley is playing Tommy the Cat. “I so wanted to be the cat”, he says. “I think people might be a little surprised – but I hope amused – when they see how I’m playing him. Miaow!”

There will be ten performances over the week-long run from January 13-20 including three matinees, a mid-morning and a tea time show. Tickets are £10.50 - £12.50. Profits will go to local charities. To book call the box office on 01202 499199 or online Further information see

Appearing in her first panto is 24-year-old Naomi Mantle in the title role, who says: “I am beyond excited to have been chosen to play Dick alongside such a talented cast. Though I started dancing at the age of two and have performed in shows locally since I was three, this is my ever first major role – let the fun begin!”

Dick Whittington And His Cat runs at the Regent Centre for ten performances from 13th to 20th January 2018. Tickets (£10.50-£12.50) are on sale both at the Regent Centre Box