If I mention ‘he’s behind you’ and ‘pantomime’, you’d probably think I was talking about Marko Arnautovic and our defence, and Stoke City’s general performance last Saturday, wouldn’t you? It was a match that saw japes and slapstick galore on the bet365 pitch, but ones that left us leaving fuming, not happy.
Yet the day before the West Ham debacle, Jonathan Wilkes and Christian Patterson launched The Regent Theatre’s 2017 panto, Aladdin, and left to cheers and wild applause rather than boos. There were a few tears, but they were kids heartily laughing at the likes of the breaking wind jokes, whilst adults walked into the chilly Potteries’ night air with a knowing smile thanks to a number of perfectly-pitched puns that went well over the heads of their younger companions. Widow Twankey, indeed!
Once again, Messrs Wilkes and Patterson have pulled it off whilst treading the Regent’s boards over the festive period. Once again it’s a Stoke-on-Trent pantomime, and a bit like going to the game – it’s a fiercely parochial ninety minutes or so. And it sums the city’s people up perfectly, too – a population who can laugh at themselves and each other, and one that likes a damn good night out!
Aladdin is just that. It’s full of special effects and stunning backdrops, but as ever, it’s the two main men who are the stars of the show: As Wilkes said to me when I interviewed him last year – “Why get a huge celebrity name in? The pantomime is the people of this city’s pantomime and shouldn’t be hijacked by someone simply pushing their own catchphrase“. What you get is a wish-granting genie, an evil sorcerer, a lamp-full of laughs, a spectacular 3D sequence which will send audiences flying over Old Peking and beyond on a magical flying carpet ride – and the usual self-effacing Potteries and district jibes. A lot of hard work goes into the panto, but Wilkes and adopted-Stokie Patterson are effortless in their delivery. Besst mates, having a laugh up ‘Anley duck.
The time flies by, yet you get full value for your ding. And you don’t need the likes of me critiquing it, either: just look at the kids’ faces as everyone streams out at the end. They are the real judges.
Yes, that lady in the audience is still 111 years old, and yes, there are plenty of gentle Staffordshire Moorlands put-downs. But a Wilkes and Patterson panto is now as essential a part of a Potteries Christmas as oatcakes on Boxing Day, moaning at Top of the Pops and the Queen’s Speech, not having enough batteries for that toy, kids crying as they’ve chucked away a gift voucher with the wrapping, hoping that that relative you don’t like isn’t driving and so doesn’t drink your best stuff, forgetting the Wi-Fi password, queuing outside Pandora for hours, watching lads being sick down Trinity Street alleyways on Black Eye Friday….and a 3-0 capitulation against a poor team!
Aladdin is at The Regent Theatre until Sunday 7 January 2018.
Tickets are now on sale and are available in person from The Regent Theatre Box Office, by calling 0844 871 7649 or visiting www.atgtickets.com/stoke.