Is It Time for a Night of Panto? Oh Yes It Is

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Byline: Fiona Mountford

(1) Festive fun: (clockwise from main picture) Richard Bremner in Nicholas Nickleby; Hayley-Jayne Langwith and Gregor Henderson-Begg in Mother Goose; Helen Baker in Jack and the Beanstalk(2) Hackneys finest: Hannah Jane Fox (Dick Whittington) and Clive Rowe (Sarah the Cook) at the Empire (3) Festive fun: (clockwise from main picture) Richard Bremner in Nicholas Nickleby; Hayley-Jayne Langwith and Gregor Henderson-Begg in Mother Goose; Helen Baker in Jack and the Beanstalk

POSH PANTO Cinderella Old Vic, SE1 Sir Ian McKellen may currently begiving us his Lear, but it is his take on another great role in the classicalcanon that will really go down in theatre history. Yes, McKellens Widow Twankeyfor the Old Vic in 2004 and 2005 suddenly made Its behind you! an acceptablestatement again and with one rub of the magic lamp, the genre of posh pantocame into being. If anything, the Vic has gone even posher for this yearsCinderella, enlisting Stephen Fry to write the script and Oscar-winner AnneDudley to compose the music. Following McKellens lead, proper actors, ratherthan just old lags from regional rep, now embrace the genre, and so PaulineCollins heads the cast.

4 Dec-20 Jan (0870 060 6628, www.oldvictheatre.com)

Jack and the Beanstalk Barbican, EC2 The Barbican also poshed up last yearcourtesy of Mark Ravenhills Dick Whittington; now its the turn of playwrightJonathan Harvey and Olivier Award-winning musical writers Stiles and Drew.Comedians Steve Furst, best known for the Orange mobile phone ads, and MelGiedroyc will turn out as Beastly Boris and Fairy Liquid in Jack and theBeanstalk.

Tonight until 12 Jan (0845 120 7550, www.barbican.org.uk)

JUST LIKE IT OUGHT TO BE Dick Whittington Hackney Empire, E8 Writer-directorSusie McKenna usually guarantees that a December night in Hackney is one of thejolliest in town. Her snappy scripts gleefully embrace all pantos daftconventions, rather than holding them at arms length with tongs, as many othersdo. The delightful Clive Rowe returns this year as Sarah the Cook.

Tonight until 12 Jan (020 8985 2424, www.hackneyempire.co.uk)

Cinderella Richmond Theatre The last role Nigel Havers played at Richmond wasMaxim de Winter in Rebecca, a part one imagines didnt call for as much banterwith the audience as will the Baron in Cinderella. 7 Dec-20 Jan (0870 060 6651, www.richmondtheatre.net)

Snow White Wimbledon Theatre Its the sort of gloriously incongruous pairingthat only panto could throw up: Ross Kemp, using all his Grant Mitchell muscleas the evil Henchman, goes head to head with Bobby Davro as Muddles the Jester. …