MANY years ago, we used to read theatre or opera reviews by the great critics of the day, who would compare the latest actors or shows to people long gone. And it used to drive us mad! Now, after decades of reviewing and reporting, we realise we risk doing it, so we try not to.
But while it would be a bit infuriating for some readers if we kept talking about stars of the past, what this long history of theatre and concert-going does do is give perspective. When we say a performer or play or show or performance is great, we are comparing (in our memories) so many things we have seen. How many Hamlets – and yet there is always room for another angst-ridden young Dane!
And so it is with pantomime – oh yes it is! (Sorry, that was so predictable!) We can look back to the late great Chris Harris or Jack Tripp and look at their successors, and congratulate ourselves that we have been lucky enough to see these legends in their heyday and now enjoy the dames and knockabouts and villains of today.
Bath is fortunate indeed in Jon Monie – rubber-faced, multi-talented, genuinely a very funny man who has become not only Bath’s own clever pantomime writer, but one of the country’s best. In his regular knockabout role, this time as the hapless Wishee Washee, he holds the whole audience, from toddlers to great-grandparents, in the palm of his hand! He knows just how to coax shy children to speak or even sing and he can fill in any awkward gap or lost cue.
Bath is also fortunate in Nick Wilton, a dame in the Jack Tripp tradition, sweet-natured and constantly surprised at the pitfalls and accidents that befall his family. You just want to hug him! Here he is in his element as one of the most endearing dames – Widow Twanky, always on the look out for love, and hopelessly trying to keep her adventurous son under control and her useless son employed!
The triumph of this year’s pantomime is completed by Tom Lister as one of the most handsome Abanazars ever, and he’s also VERY funny. His interactions with the audience are a lot more than mere boos. He is bad, very bad, very very BAAAD … and loving every minute.
This is a lively retelling of a familiar story, with a feisty Spirit of the Ring (Amy Perry) and an exuberant Genie (Maddison Tyson). Michael Chance makes a welcome return to Bath, this year as the Emperor, and Kaysha Nada makes her professional debut as his daughter, Princess Jasmine. Alex Aram is energetic and courageous as Aladdin.
Lots of good songs, plenty of opportunities to clap or even sing along, a change from the usual audience song routine before the wedding walk-down, spectacular costumes and lots and lots of laughs … whatever you want from pantomime you will find it at Bath Theatre Royal, where Aladdin runs to 8th January.
Photographs by Freya Turland