When a grown man dressed as a blue monkey who is the adopted son of a man dressed as a woman is telling you everything is “amazeplums”, you know it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.
This year the Lyric Hammersmith presents a pantomime where intoxicating bizarreness hangs in the air like the smell of mulled wine around a Christmas market. But this is panto; why should anyone be questioning why Aladdin’s sibling is strangely simian?
You must know the story by now. Street urchin in Arabic slum – here named Ham-mer-smit – is the pure-of-heart kid who can unlock a hidden cave for the distinctly untrustworthy, moustachioed Abanazer. Enter lamp, Genie, wishes, peril and happily ever after.
Where does that blue baboon come in? Well, he’s Wishy-Washy, adopted son of Aladdin’s mum, Widow Twankey, and, played by Steven Webb, he’s the character that most interacts with the audience and gives the show an extra shot of silly sauce-laced adrenalin every time he enters the stage.
He’s got a good singing voice for a monkey too. Oh no he hasn’t. Oh yes he has. (Come on, it’s a panto piece, what did you expect?) In fact, the principal performers all have voices that would make the hills come alive, which is handy as there are a wealth of tunes in the show, from updates of modern chart hits like Cee Lo Green’s Forget You and Katy Perry’s I Kissed A Girl to something for the parents in a magical rendition of MC Hammer’s U Can’t Touch This, delivered by a genie who resembles a cross between Jimmy Saville and Elvis.
Much of Shaun Prendergast’s performance as Twankey is also aimed at the wink wink nudge nudge audience, with gags that fly high above the heads of the children… which reminds me of the show’s stand out ‘wow’ moment, but let’s not give too much away save that, as a 30-something man, I was impressed and filled with child-like glee.
Like all the best pantos, there are gags that make you groan with joy, participation aplenty, sweets tossed with abandon – though when they have just been looted, does this implicate the audience in receiving stolen goods? – and more silliness than a crazy day in the sausage factory. Some sections may not hang together as well as Widow Twankey’s outfits, but in the grand scheme of things, when you have a blue monkey doing impressions of Beyoncé and laundering equipment that wouldn’t seem out of place on Strictly Come Dancing, a lot can be forgiven. Amazeplums.