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Richmond Theatre has never had a problem with image – in the darkest part of The Green, their foyer offers a warmly glowing burst of Christmassy gold, green and red decorations. But their pantomimes had become stale – different show title, same lines, same staff, with a couple of has-been headliners bumbling about on stage.
Fear not! (slaps thigh) This year they’ve called for consummate panto-Dame Christopher Biggins and, ably assisted by Rikky Jay as Wishy Washy, we now have a fast-moving spectacle that immediately grabs the children’s attention and participation (rule 1). Then it descends into organised chaos and ‘mishaps’ with little attention to the story – boy has lamp, boy loses lamp to nasty man, boy wins lamp and girl. Just what the people of Richmond expect to pay good money for.
There's a rather embarrassing mechanical genie, whose mouth just drops limply open when he talks. But this disappointment is offset by genuine gasps of amazement when Aladdin rides his flying carpet, while the ‘Old Peking’ routine is probably worth the entrance fee alone. Biggins, of course, carries the whole thing – quick-changing in to ever more ridiculous outfits and chucking out jokes with knowing nods and winks in gay abandon.
Awful genie aside, this is Richmond’s best offering for quite some time. One of the best pantos in and around the capital this season? Undoubtedly. Treat yourself.