Paul Merton’s live pantomime debut as Widow Twankey in Aladdin at the New Wimbledon Theatre at Christmas 2018
Paul Merton steals show as he makes panto debut in Aladdin
The Have I Got News For You comedian turns in a humorous and endearing performance in an enjoyable rendition of Aladdin at the New Wimbledon Theatre.
Paul Merton undoubtedly steals the show in his stage panto debut. Appearing impressively bewigged, with a variety of amusingly over-the-top costumes, he makes plenty of jokes suitable for all the family – and some very much just for a mature audience. In his trademark style he drops some wonderfully deadpan one-liners throughout and also draws huge laughs for his moments of improvisation.
Aladdin really is a pantomime for all the family
Paul Merton of Have I Got News for You, and Just A Minute fame, plays Widow Twankey with aplomb, great humour and constant ad-libs. Dressed in fabulous costumes that in themselves raised laughter, Paul makes a convincing pantomime dame. His great verbal skills were only enhanced by the perfect foil of Pete Firman who plays Wishee-Washee. These two very different but highly talented comedians with their brilliant timing and mastery of ad-libbing make a memorable and formidable duo.
Merton's Twankey harks back to what many see as the good old days of pantomime
Bedecked in bloomers, gloves and array of outlandish outfits, Merton relishes his time on stage, commenting on the action as if having accidently stumbled upon proceedings and using his local knowledge to increase the sense of a shared community.
His deadpan delivery and wry smile bring a knowing love of the form to the stage with the production ticking off many set-piece staples including Abbott and Costello's "Who's on First?" sketch as Wishee and Twankey try to determine the destination for Mr Who, Mr What and Mr I Don't Know's washing. As a connoisseur of early cinema, Merton obviously enjoys engaging with the past in a present art form and honouring the greats with his silly antics.
As a double act, Merton and Pete Firman's Wishee Washee share many a moment of mirth. From a launderette sequence resulting in shrinkage to playful truncheon choreography in "If I Were Not Upon This Stage", the two work well together with Firman’s relentless energy balancing Merton’s more measured approach.
Magical Merton musters up that warm panto glow
As Widow Twankey, the laundry proprietor who here describes herself as “one of the biggest scrubbers in the area”, he’s an unexpectedly affable presence.
Often sending up his lugubrious TV persona, he milks opportunities for quickfire improvisation. Yet there’s also a genuine warmth in his performance, and frequent costume changes take him well out of his comfort zone.
Extravagantly bewigged, he variously appears in a striped apron featuring a washing machine, in a bath full of noodles and with a tea tray fixed on his head.