Goodness! Two pantos in 11 days? You might be forgiven for thinking that the Whingers are full of uncharacteristic festive cheer.
Don’t worry, these two miserable Scrooges hate the season as much as ever. The only Christmas spirit they’ll be displaying will be served in a tumbler over ice. So why another panto?
Yes, Pammy as the Genie of the Lamp! Who wouldn’t be intrigued by that prospect? But the cunning burghers behind this year’s spectacle Aladdin have come up with a very clever ruse: casting four very different stars in the part over the brief season - a sort of theatrical hot desking box and cox sort of thing. Ruby Wax, Pamela Anderson, Anita Dobson and Paul O’Grady will all take the part.
Not only that, but it’s another gem from that prolific panto pensman Eric Potts. Remember him? He was behind the enjoyable Cinderella the Whingers schlepped all the way up to Milton Keynes to see, so all the suitably corny gags and topical references are safely in place. Throw in former Regent’s Park artistic director Ian Talbot as director (and playing the Emperor) and things couldn’t really go far wrong.
And they don’t. A snatch of “Thoroughly Modern Millie” in the overture had the Whingers nodding in approval from the off. Yes, this is a panto that despite the expected occasional pop tune has all the elements of a proper traditional show. Cole Porter’s “Come To The Supermarket In Old Peking”, “Step in Time” (from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang) “I’m a Believer”, “Chattanooga Choo Choo”, “I am What I Am”, and “Big Spender” all get look ins, there’s even a few chords from “Tubular Bells”. Very satisfying.
National Treasure Brian Blessed is (as expected) a wonderfully booming, hammy, teasing and occasionally esoteric Abanazar. The Whingers had rather derided Anthea Turner’s attempts to use Cinderella to showcase her career but we positively lapped up Mr Blessed’s references to his Everest climbs, Shakespearean past and of course you wouldn’t leave satisfied unless he referenced Flash Gordon and his iconic “GORDON’S ALIVE!”.
It’s Blessed who provides the anchor in the absence of an old panto stalwart like Bobby Davro to hold the whole thing together, but he’s given support from Jonathan D Ellis‘s excellent Widow Twankey and Paul Thornley‘s Wishee Washee who provides one of the show’s highlights in his interaction with the kids who are brought on stage (to steal the show of course). And Djalenga Scott‘s perky Mexican (?) slave of the ring is far from out-shadowed by the star turn.
But what of Pammy you’re dying to know. Well there’ only five minutes of her in the first act, but it’s well worth the wait… She descends from the flies sitting in a big hoop dressed in a sparkly version of her Baywatch costume with a sparkly surfboard dangling below her.
And boy, is this girl game for panto. We were reliably informed that it was Pammy’s own suggestion that she introduce herself as the “the most powerful and down-loaded genie” and there are references to drummers and of course she gets to say, “Don’t call me Babe!” The woman plays up to every expectation and was adored for it.
The Robinson’s promotion is less shameless than at Milton Keynes, and mainly kept to one of the Twankey’s outfit. Phil thought it was particularly nicely lit for a panto (Well done Tim Mascall).
Probably, with Anderson in the house there’s no need for Katie Price gags and the quotient is down to a mere one (but there was a Kerry Katona one too). Jedwood get only one reference, albeit an extended one that got the whole audience ducking for cover. Phil’s favourite gag was “Shut up, or I’ll turn you intro a prawn cocktail – and that’s just for starters”; Andrew’s was the one about Twankey saying that for Christmas she wanted something that would go from nought to 160 in five seconds and getting a set of bathroom scales.
So we laughed and sang and the Whingers even got a mention in Wishee Washee’s round-up of birthdays (combined age: 357). The slosh wasn’t quite sloshy enough for our tastes and there was no throwing of sweets into the audience (presumably another H&S over-reaction just because some child lost an eye at some point) but by the end the Whingers were so panto-ed up that they were hollering out the lyrics to the song sheet number “There’s a worm at the bottom of my garden and his name is Wiggly-Woo” which really should have been the song the winnning X Factor constestant had to release for Christmas. Brilliant.
The show was getting on for three hours long and the Whingers were hoarse from shouting “It’s Behind You!” and “How you diddlin’, Wishee?” and “We love you, Pammy” over and over so they tripped across the road to the pub for some refrehsment and were quietly minding their own business when who should come in but Pammy herself!
The paparazzi weren’t far behind of course and “Pamela Anderson In Pub” was understandably the front page news in today’s Evening Standard.
Of course it was just more unwanted attention for the Whingers and indeed the bar staff seemed a bit unaccustomed to all the fuss. As the bar-woman said to Andrew as she served him yet another bottle of the Wibbas Down Inn’s very competitively priced bottles of red wine (£4.99) and shaking her head in disbelief, “It wasn’t like this when John Barrowman came in.”
Sadly we didn’t get a chance to probe Pammy ourselves but judging by this Q and A in The Guardian she has quite a line in self-deprecating wit:
Where would you like to live?
My family roots are in Finland and I’ve considered moving there and opening a strip club called Lapland.
What do you most dislike about your appearance?
Being bald – I wish I didn’t have to wear these big, blond wigs every day.
Who would play you in the film of your life?
Any drag queen will do.
What is your most unappealing habit?
Wearing high heels to bed – some people don’t like getting poked.
Which living person do you most despise and why?
Anna Wintour, because she bullies young designers and models to use and wear fur.
Who would you invite to your dream dinner party?
Jack the Ripper and Anna Wintour.