You’ll have seen the adverts in the local press, on billboards, on buses, for months. But did you realise the average panto has just under two weeks’ rehearsal time before the first curtain up? Is it any wonder a pantomime dame ends up so hilariously world-weary? And none more so than Quinn Patrick’s Widow Twankey in Tunbridge Wells’ ‘Aladdin’. An old hand at this, she’s a jaded tongue and a vision in multiple exuberant crinolines, rivalled only by the star-billed Michael Greco as villain Abanazar for beauty (who doesn’t love a flash of manly torso under an outfit that makes him look like a tasty purple Quality Street?) It’s been a long time since we last saw Beppe Di Marco, and its a coup for the Kentish town that it’s managed to persuade him to freeze his sequins off here instead of sunning himself in LA, where he’s lived for several years now.
Regulars will appreciate the return of Chris Pizzey as Wishee Washee, the Buttons/fool role he also inhabits as the sidekick to Basil Brush on many a children’s theatre tour and ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ fans will recognise Jess Robinson as the Slave Of The Ring. She’s the life force of the pantomime, bringing her quickfire impressions and Vegas-quality vocals to what is often a relatively minor role. She shines brighter than one of Abanazar’s brightly polished lamps and absolutely rules the show.
While we’re on our women, it’s lovely to see a panto Princess who isn’t a pushover, as Alexander Robinson’s Jasmine is charming without being cloying, and also packs a hell of a vocal punch. Tom Whalley is OTT camp personified as PC Pong, and works brilliantly with Pizzey in a calamitous sudsy laundry scene worthy of ‘Tiswas’. There are a handful of topical jokes about Brexit and the BBC’s gender pay gap, but the humour is mainly gentle and child-friendly.
The staging is a bit flat, with the exception of an outstanding video-game quality flying carpet scene as Aladdin races to the rescue, accompanied by a showstopping duet by Team Robinson. And of course, everything ends happily ever after. As you’d expect from a pantomime partially set in a laundry, it really is very good, clean fun indeed.