This year Richmond Theatre is welcoming back one of its most popular pantomime stars of recent times as comedian Tim Vine returns to star in Aladdin, alongside pop star turned actor, Suzanne Shaw.
Vine, who has previously appeared in Snow White and Sleeping Beauty at the venue, says one of the main he reasons he was keen to return to panto was to impress some of the younger members of his family while he still had the chance.
'Richmond Theatre is perfect for pantomime and my nieces are at an age now where it’s still cool for them to come see their uncle do one, whereas in a few years time they’ll think it’s deeply uncool,' he explains, with a laugh.
'I need to increase my street cred with them because I know there is only a short window of opportunity before that will all be over.'
As well as being one of Britain’s most popular stand-ups, Vine has also enjoyed great success with Not Going Out, the BBC sitcom he starred in with Lee Mack. So when the script for Aladdin was being put together, unsurprisingly the creative team behind the show allowed him to inject some of his own gags into the dialogue. For those who haven’t seen Vine in action before, expect his character Wishee Washee, who he describes as a 'loveable idiot', to dispense plenty of wisecracks and silly puns.
'It helps that I’ve got quite short jokes, so I don’t have to do big bits of set up and can chuck them in throughout the performance. It’s nice to be able to them en route, because it makes more sense for the story as a whole,' he adds.
As an experienced comic, Vine says he will have no problem dealing with the heckles and audience participation that are par for the panto course. In fact, he believes the interactive and anarchic side to pantomime make it 'a great fit for stand-ups'.
'In comedy you have to come on stage, look the audience in the eye and speak directly to them and although pantomime is a play you are meant to do exactly the same thing and get the audience involved,' he says.
'The audience also love it when something goes awry – it’s not like Hamlet where if the actor drops the skull it can spoil the atmosphere.'
'When we did Sleeping Beauty there was the dramatic moment where Beauty falls asleep for 100 years. The actress playing her did some great acting, pretending to be asleep, but as we took her to the bed she sneezed. It was quite hard to keep it together and not fall about laughing at that point.'
Whether Aladdin goes all right, or slightly wrong, on the night, there’ll be no need for audiences to hold back on the laughter, and with Vine back on board laughs are guaranteed.