Basil Brush stars as the Genie of the Lamp
Basil Brush stars as the Genie of the Lamp

Former Heartbeat actor Steven Blakeley certainly hits the heights in this year's pantomime at the Theatre Royal, Windsor.

Not only has he written this spectacular version of Aladdin buts his aerial terpsichorial exploits, while he soars high above the stage on a wire, have to be seen to be believed!

It must involve an enormous amount of strain from the harness on his upper body but then he only has himself to blame - for he's also the director of the show!

It's the second year running that Steven who played PC Geoff Younger in Heartbeat, has written and directed Windsor's panto. He obviously loves the genre and in his role as a very svelte Widow Twankey, he leads a happy cast in a raucous, energetic offering that manages to mix all the finest ingredients of a traditional panto with some lively, bang-up-to-date elements to create a scintillating couple of hours of entertainment to please all ages.

The interplay and ad-libbing between the cast show that they too are revelling in the joyful ridiculousness of this much-anticipated seasonal treat.

Aladdin at the Theatre Royal, Windsor
Aladdin at the Theatre Royal, Windsor
 

There are barrow-loads of topical jokes, of course - with the Princess advised of the availability of a young, red-haired prince whose grandmother lives in a castle just up the road - while poor old Slough comes in for a bit of a light-hearted bashing!

The excellent scenery and special effects are above even Windsor's normal high standards and there should be a special mention for the sound crew who make sure the auditorium is filled with atmospheric aural delights.

There are plenty of faces from the small screen among this year's cast and two in particular, Basil Brush and former Blue Peter presenter Peter Duncan, induce an element of nostalgia for the mums and dads in the audience. It's almost 50 years since the witty, debonair Basil, with his 'boom, boom' catch phrase, made his TV debut, but the old chap is still on top form as the Genie of the Lamp and, unlike many of the children's characters featured in Windsor pantos of recent years, plays a pivotal role in the goings-on, his foxy sense of humour fitting in wonderfully with the panto spirit.

Full credit to his anonymous 'man below' who sadly gets no name check himself, for perpetuating the voice and mannerisms which have so captivated generations of youngsters.

Peter Duncan is also in imperious form as the wicked Abanazar, who craves world domination through the power of the magic lamp, something which would certainly not have won him a Blue Peter badge.

Peter Duncan as Abanazar
 

He plays the role with a slightly camp nastiness, inducing a cacophony of boos and hisses at every entrance but  interacting impressively with the audience, courtesy of  some mischievous asides. On Tuesday evening he was lucky not to injure himself after sweeping on stage only to end up sprawled in a heap after slipping on a pile of soapsuds left over from the slapstick laundry scene!

Like Steven Blakeley, Kevin Cruise (aka Martin Cabble) has become a stalwart of Windsor pantos over the last few years, returning each time by popular request and never failing to give anything but his all. This year he's again in his element as Wishee Washee, endearing himself to the audience with a sense of humour and limitless energy so vital to panto.
Giovanni Spano is a slick and confident Aladdin, while the appropriately-named Jasmine Gur is Princess Jasmine, sassy and demure in turn as the plot unravels.

TV cook Rosemary Shrager makes her pantomime debut as The Empress and, having survived the rigours of  I'm A Celebrity last year, takes the challenge in her stride.

Twist and Pulse (Ashley Glazebrook and Glen Murphy) take on the  roles of PCs Hip and Hop and dazzle with their 'streetomedy' dance routines.

Aladdin at the Theatre Royal, Windsor
 

Michael Winsor, whose first Theatre Royal panto was as far back as 1989, returns as The Emperor, while there is excellent support from the ensemble of dancers and singers, alongside a pool of students and young performers who provide some particularly memorable moments - watch out for the Abba sequence!

That magical pantomime mix is all here - the glitter and razammatazz, the awful jokes and visual gags, the audience reaction and the zaniness. There is a unique Britishness to it all , of course. Where else in the world could you see such fun-filled, sparkling entertainment with a tail-wagging fox puppet almost stealing the show?

Aladdin is at The Theatre Royal, Windsor, until Sunday January 5. Contact the box office on  01753 853888  or www.theatreroyalwindsor.co.uk .           

Aladdin at the Theatre Royal, Windsor
Aladdin at the Theatre Royal, Windsor