Close-up: Sarah Owen & Ruby Platts-Mills

With help from Lily Allen and friends, this duo are staging the hippest panto in town
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The Independent Online

The Portobello Panto started life as a ramshackle, yet subversive affair. Tired of the restraints of the traditional panto formula, Kevin (brother of Keith) Allen and the actress Anna Chancellor set up a show in a friend's front room that soon attracted a cult following as well as celebrity participation (Stephen Fry, Ruby Wax and Keith Allen all featured). The show moved to the Tabernacle Arts Centre in Notting Hill, grew from strength to strength, then fizzled out about eight years ago.

Now this much loved west-London institution has been resurrected by 27-year old locals Sarah Owen (left) and Ruby Platts-Mills, who both grew up with the Portobello Panto as their Christmas outing. "I'd been to a really crap panto in Portsmouth," says Platts-Mills. "I started reminiscing about the old panto; that's when we got the idea of reviving it."

Somewhere over the Westway, a remake of The Wizard of Oz, was the girls' 2006 debut and this year it's A Twisted Carol, a dark remake of A Christmas Carol. The duo decamped to Ibiza this summer to write the script; in September they started fundraising and by October work on the production started in earnest.

As the stepdaughter of Keith Allen and daughter of film director Barney Platts-Mills respectively, the girls have all the right contacts. This year's production features Alfie Allen, Jaime Winstone and an impressive cameo roll call including Harry Enfield, Lily Allen and Miquita Oliver.

The girls are rightly proud of the work they have done. "It's changed our lives," says Owen. "People come up to say we've created a focal point in the area again." Last year tickets sold out in a matter of days; it is clearly, if there is such a thing, the coolest panto in town.

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