There’s a veritable selection box of queer adult pantomimes on offer this year, and one of the first off the block is Rubbed at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern. 

This is a novel take on the Aladdin story, and – as the production is quick to point out, there are no questionable ethnic stereotypes on display here. Instead, we find a white, gay, and wealthy Aladdin living it up with a playboy lifestyle in sun-drenched Monaco. Meanwhile, evil Abenazar is still determined to get his hands on the famous magic lamp – even if it means disguising himself as a Tory official and having the Genie evicted. With the help of the Slave of the Ring and her ‘tragic carpet’, Genie must locate Aladdin – to prove ownership of the lamp and foil Abenazar’s plans. And then there’s the question of their master/slave relationship to resolve… 

This is good, filthy, anarchic fun for all the queer family. There’s everything that one would expect from a traditional panto – villains to boo, heroes to cheer, slapstick and sing-alongs – all served up with a deliciously large extra helping of camp. There are plenty of side-swipes at contemporary issues too, but at no point do these outstay their welcome or overwhelm the plot – the focus here is firmly on fun. There are moments that are a little rough around the edges – but the occasional fluffed line or tumbling piece of scenery only adds to the riotous joy of the experience. 

As Abenazar, Rich Watkins is a commanding presence, dominating the stage with precision and panache – a villain we love to hate. Topsie Redfern is a delicate delight as Genie, and Faye Reeves is a triumphant Slave of the Ring – dispensing ‘shit magic’ and belting brilliantly throughout. Alan Hunter gives us an Aladdin that we fall in love with – despite initial ‘rich boy’ arrogance, and Robert McNeilly is outstanding as Twanky – the bearded and brassy dame with a shocking surprise or two up her sleeve… This is a cast that is clearly having as much fun as the audience. 

Director Tim McArthur has achieved a pleasing blend of tradition and novelty. The level of campery and innuendo is spot on, and the call-and-response involvement of the audience is just on this side of indecent! Rubbed is everything that you could wish for to spice-up the festive season – mucky magical mayhem with sparkle and sauce. 

Gay Times gives Rubbed – ★★★★

More information can be found here