Comedian Tim Vine talks about panto role as Idle Jack in Dick Whittington at New Wimbledon Theatre

With a name like Idle Jack, comedian Tim Vine could be forgiven for thinking he would have an easy time of it when he landed his latest panto part.

But far from it. The popular punslinger, who is appearing in Dick Whittington at New Wimbledon Theatre, says he’s actually got his work cut out.

“Considering how many scenes I do, I am not idle at all.

“I did say to the director that perhaps for the second half of the show I should just be pushed around in an armchair.”

Vine, 49, has cemented his place as a panto regular in recent years with appearances in Richmond and Wimbledon and his latest part is a familiar one.

He said: “I’ve always played the Buttons role – the idiot friend of the female lead, if you like.

“Producers always seem to incorporate that kind of character into every story, so Snow White suddenly has a Buttons-type friend called Muddles or something like that.

“This time I am friends with Alice who is the love interest of Dick Whittington and I just get caught up in the whole adventure with them.”

Vine, also known as the Man with the Golden Pun, is making his seventh panto appearance and readily admits he’s no match for co-star Matthew Kelly.

“I am a new boy compared to him. He has done something like 37 or 38 professional pantos and he told me he’s also done about 10 amateur productions.

“He is someone who really knows his way around a panto.”

Kelly plays Sarah the Cook and Vine says the Olivier award-winning actor is the perfect fit as the panto dame.

“Matthew’s got funny bones. Every time he comes in wearing a new costume, that’s a laugh right there.

“I worked with him two years ago in Cinderella where he was one of the Ugly Sisters along with his son [also called Matthew]. The pair of them formed a kind of double act.

“Now we have plenty of lines together which means we’re a double act of our own, which is great.”

In stark contrast to the experienced Kelly, fellow co-star Arlene Phillips is making her panto debut as Fairy Bowbells.

Vine is quick to heap praise on the world-renowned choreographer and former Strictly Come Dancing judge who has already made her mark.

He said: “Arlene’s been great. She’s adapted really well to the pace of the show which isn’t always that easy when you’re new to panto.

“If anything, I do more dancing in the show than her. Actually, come to think of it, that’s not true. She dances a lot, especially a great routine with the kids which they all love.

“It’s just as well. My own dance style is more of a Muhammed Ali shuffle than anything else.”

Appearing on The Broadway in Wimbledon could be as close as Tim’s ever going to get to appearing on Broadway, but he has had a brush with American acting royalty.

He said: “Two years ago I appeared in Cinderella with Linda Gray [Sue Ellen Ewing in Dallas]. For me, it really was one of those pinch yourself moments.

“One time between shows, me and Linda went to Wagamamas in Wimbledon and I’m sitting there with Sue Ellen from Dallas thinking ‘how is this actually happening?’

“She was fantastic to work with and thoroughly got into the whole panto thing.

“I don’t think she’ll be doing it every year and was just happy to tick that box. She’s probably even happier lounging by her pool in Malibu as we speak.”

Vine admits he’ll probably take a breather once his latest panto stint comes to an end on January 15 before moving on to his next project.

“I’ve made a tentative start on a new show which I may or may not try out at the Edinburgh Festival.

“But first things first, during the second half of January I’ll probably take a long lie down in a darkened room and laugh my head off.”

Dick Whittington, New Wimbledon Theatre, The Broadway, Wimbledon SW19 1QG, until Sunday, January 15. Tickets £12-£46. More details at atgtickets.com/new-wimbledon-theatre

Richmond and Twickenham Times | Theatre