‘It’s not a panto, it’s a family reunion!’ roared Berwick Kaler as he burst onstage to huge applause from the loyal York audience. Aladdin and the Twankeys is Berwick’s 35th York pantomime, and for many local families this eccentric, hilarious and unique Christmas show is an unmissable fixture in their festive diary. We’re one of those families. We’ve been going to the York Theatre Royal panto for as long as I can remember, dragging along whichever parent, sibling, aunt or uncle that happens to be around. We’d book tickets when they go on sale in March, guessing how many seats we’d be likely to need and knowing that the tickets wouldn’t be wasted as we’d always be able to find someone who’d want to come. Even in our sulky teenage years – when nothing could make us crack a smile – my brothers and I would go along and have a laugh.
Now we’re parents ourselves, we’re continuing the tradition with our children. This week we took along our little Vikings to the matinee performance of Aladdin and the Twankeys, making it a pre-Christmas and birthday treat for the biggest Viking who’s been cursed with a mid-December birthday. This was his second panto: we introduced him to it last year when he was three, and he absolutely loved it. His sister – just six months old at the time – wasn’t so keen and only lasted until the interval. But we took her along again this time, hoping that at 18 months she might enjoy it a bit more. And she certainly did.
In fact both kids were completely engrossed by it: it’s a fast-paced, funny show with tons going to keep their interest. All the elements that we know and love were there: Berwick’s outrageous outfits, the film of the characters heading out into York (featuring local legend Harry Gration of course), the water scene, the Wagon Wheels (yet again we failed to get one, despite the littlest Viking’s best efforts) and the bad jokes. This year I think I even detected something that seemed suspiciously like a…..plot! A complicated one with lots of twists and turns, but a plot nonetheless.
But really the story is irrelevant: it’s the wonderful cast and the endless creativity of the team behind it that make this show magical. Both of our children were totally captivated by it and sat through the whole thing without any complaints (well, just the odd panic from the little one when the baddie came on stage but she soon got used to him). And there were plenty of adult jokes and asides for us to enjoy, too. It’s one of our Christmas highlights this year and we’ll be first in the queue when the tickets go on sale for 2014. Long may Berwick reign!
Aladdin and the Twankeys – York Theatre Royal – 12th December to 1st February – £12 to £26.50 – read our Q&A with Berwick Kaler here.