Last chance to see a Panto legend

Wednesday 14th January 2009

After 25 years of “Here I am, dears!”, it’s the final curtain for one of the most celebrated Dames in all the land. The end of an era looms at Nottingham Playhouse as its current pantomime ALADDIN completes its record-breaking run next Saturday. With a quarter century of hijinks and hilarity under his garter, Kenneth Alan Taylor has confirmed that – while he will continue to write and direct – this will be the last time he appears on stage in the theatre’s festive show.

Nottingham audiences currently flocking to the Playhouse to see Kenneth as Widow Twankey will be the last to see a true legend in the Dame game: when the curtain comes down on Saturday 24 January, he insists he is hanging up his pantomime stockings for good. As Kenneth says,
bq. I’m going out on a high with this year’s show. It’s been great fun, but I’ve always said I wanted to stop before anyone out there in the audience starts to say I’m past it!

There’s little danger of that in ALADDIN: audiences have been lapping up a performance that’s as energetically outrageous as ever it was. When she’s not smashing the wedding china to smithereens, Widow Twankey can be seen menacing the front rows with a water pistol, performing her own take on Hairspray and enacting an inspired parody of Torvill and Dean’s Bolero – and always gloriously attired in a succession of stunning frocks.

Kenneth retired as Dame following 2004’s SLEEPING BEAUTY but was persuaded to pull on his tights one last time to celebrate his silver jubilee – and to give his young grandchildren the chance to see him in his element. (The latest, his fifth, arrived just days before ALADDIN opened back in November.) However, his comeback was always planned to be a one-off.

KAT lovers should not despair, however: Kenneth will be back in Nottingham later this year to write and direct his 26th consecutive Christmas show, BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, and they can look forward to his unmistakeable stamp on the Playhouse pantomime for years beyond that.

There’s just one thing that might draw Kenneth irresistibly back to Damehood. Nottingham Playhouse is currently exploring the possibility of touring selected shows to theatres in China – among them its renowned pantomime.  Discussions are still in the early stages but if these plans were to crystallise, Kenneth says he would have to write himself a small Dame part, just for the experience of introducing this quintessentially British form of theatre to the Chinese.

For Nottingham, though, ALADDIN really is the last chance to see this famous Dame in action. The show closes on Saturday 24 January and seats are still available for some performances (call 0115 941 9419 for availability).