Pantomime is back at Cardiff’s New Theatre. The family favourite Aladdin will feature an all-star cast and promises to be bigger and better than ever. The eponymous hero will be played by singing star Gareth Gates while his brother, the beloved character of Wishy Washy will be portrayed by pantomime stalwart Paul Chuckle, who is incredibly excited to be back on stage and said: “I have been doing my DJ work, so I’ve lucky to be able to play in front of thousands of people, but I’ve not actually been on stage performing comedy or anything like that since doing pantomime at Bradford two years ago.”
And it’s been some time since Paul performed in pantomime in the Welsh capital. “We’ve been there with our touring show, we always played the St. David’s Hall, but I think we last did pantomime there in 1984 or 85. It was Robin Hood with the brilliant comedian Stu Francis, and we had a lot of fun.”
The comedian, who rose to fame on the children’s television show Chucklevision alongside his brother Barry, performed in his first pantomime in 1967. “I’ve done one every year since then so 54, I think, so that’s a lot of pantomimes.” Paul explains. “I think I’ve performed in Aladdin about 14 or 15 times before. I knew for a long time that was the one we’d done the most of, but I’m really looking forward to playing Wishy Washy, because I haven’t played Wishy Washy before and I’m looking forward to having fun with the audience.”
Paul Chuckle followed his brothers into show business at an early age and pantomime always figured highly in the Chuckle household. He said: “My dad was a comedian, and my older brothers were in the business, so we used to go and see them in pantomime. We were always backstage when pantomimes and shows were on, so you could say we grew up with it.” Paul continued: “My brother Barry always wanted to do it, he always wanted to go into showbusiness, whereas I always wanted to play football.” But following an injury, Paul decided to join his brother Barry as a comedy double act and the rest, as they say, is history.
After winning Opportunity Knocks and New Faces a career in children television became the path for the Chuckle Brothers. “We were very lucky to be in the right place at the right time. We got the break for children’s television which we hoped might lead to us getting an evening slot on TV, but the show was a huge success and continued for 22 years. People grew with it. I do DJing at nightclubs and at university events and they are absolutely packed with 18-year-olds coming in, they all want to see me.”
Paul’s brother Barry sadly passed away in 2018, so the comedian has had to get used to taking to the stage on his own. “I’ve sort of got used to it now, although I still feel like he’s there with me. When I did the first pantomime on my own, I was standing in the wings waiting to go on, in the same way the two of us had always done with Barry coming on opposite me and I could have sworn he was standing there opposite me waiting to come on. I walked out and the audience erupted, and it settled me straight down and I was fine from then on.”
Paul has continued to bring the joy that he shared with his brother and the scores of Chucklevision fans to the stage and is looking forward to sharing it with audiences in Cardiff this Christmas. “My favourite part about doing pantomime is the audience. They come to enjoy themselves and I want them to go home having enjoyed themselves. Barry and I always made sure it was funny. Not too much ‘to me to you’ or ‘it’s behind you’ although there is obviously some of that. We always thought it was better to do as much comedy as possible so that everyone would go away having had a great laugh and talking about how funny it was and having loved the pantomime.” He continues: “Like Chucklevision we play it for everyone. Everyone found it funny and it’s the same with panto. They’ll be lots of laughs, that’s for sure.”
Paul Chuckle will be performing in Aladdin at Cardiff’s New Theatre from 4 December 2021 – 2 January 2022. newtheatrecardiff.co.uk