As Ian McKellen goes back in drag this Christmas as Widow Twankey in Aladdin at the Old Vic, other ‘legit’ theatre names are already planning ahead to follow in his footsteps by making their pantomime debuts.

Amongst the most unlikely has to be ‘in-yer-face’ playwright Mark Ravenhill (pictured) whose new version of Dick Whittington will premiere at the Barbican Theatre, running from 5 December 2006 (previews from 29 November) to 20 January 2007.

While one may expect something quite different from the author of Shopping and Fucking, this Dick Whittington won’t feature any graphic nudity, sex or violence. Instead, it is a traditional family pantomime – the first to be staged at the City-based arts centre in its 25-year history – though one with “distinctly modern overtones”.

According to the show’s press release, the production is “a culmination of Ravenhill’s long held love of panto”. The playwright comments: “I fell in love with panto when I was four and I’ve always wanted to write one. I can’t wait!” No further creative team details or casting for Dick Whittington have yet been confirmed.

In addition to Shopping and Fucking, Ravenhill’s other plays include Mother Clap’s Molly House, Some Explicit Polaroids and Handbag. In 2006, he will also premiere in February at London’s Donmar Warehouse, a new play called The Cut, coincidentally starring Ian McKellen who will come straight from his panto (See News, 31 May 2005).

Currently in previews, Aladdin - in its second festive season at the Old Vic - opens on 16 December 2005 and continues until 22 January 2006. McKellen’s pantomime dame debut has been nominated for Planet Hollywood Theatre Event of the Year in the Theatregoers’ Choice Awards (click here to vote now!).

- by Terri Paddock