Thursday, 13 December 2012

Aladdin - review

Written by: Daisy Thurston-Gent

Richmond Theatre, London

It’s that time of year again where local theatres are in hot competition to hold the best Pantomime…and it’s not a task that should be taken lightly. Whether, you are in need of a pre-Christmas pick-me-up or simply a way to kick-start your Panto season in festive style, Richmond Theatre’s Aladdin certainly steps up to the mark, providing a warming Christmas show that will have you giggling in minutes.

Photo: Peter Schiazza 
Sticking to its roots, Aladdin isn’t the raucous experience many Panto-frequents will be expecting, but satisfies the hankering for a friendly, family-fun evening. Indeed, the large group of Girl Guides clapping along to One Direction proves that Aladdin landed spot on with the majority of its audience. The script sits particularly well with a young audience, without patronising them with over-used quips about The X Factor. In fact, the hark back to Suzanne Shaw’s previous success as a member of 90s band Hear’Say, was largely missed (but made for a familiar murmur amongst the twenty-somethings!) Shaw takes to the Richmond Theatre stage as the bubbly Slave of the Ring, locked to the power of master - and evil villain - Abanazar (played by Jonathan D Ellis). She later doubles as her very own ‘twin-sister’ to return as the Genie of the Lamp, transporting the plot with great ease…and quick costume changes!

Photo: Peter Schiazza 
Immediately Aladdin bursts into life, the curtain lifting to a roaring electric guitar to assert the show’s contemporary score. At points, however, the volume of the music distracted from the singing, as only a select few members of the cast could be heard over the thunderous soundtrack during the first act, with weaker voices entirely lost in parts. While the musical score was varied and enjoyable, some of the much loved traditions of the Panto were left undermined with songs like ‘Gangnam Style’ stealing the biggest laugh. The children squealed with laughter, rocking on their seats, but sat stunned during the Queen number of ‘I Want It All’, which went largely unappreciated. Nevertheless, Aladdin successfully managed to balance its contemporary references to ensure the strongest possible reaction.

Photo: Peter Schiazza 
From the moment the curtain rose, the audience are dazzled by spectacle. The immaculate costumes shone, most notably with Widow Twankey’s numerous dress-changes bringing more surprises with every flounce. The glittering set lights up the room, leaving each scene twinkling in your memory, regardless of whether we’re in fanciful jewelled caves or a humble Peking market. The choreography was superb amongst the ensemble, and one particular cameo that stood out was that of the flying carpet, providing humour in mischievous physicality and opening up the auditorium for audience participation in a single tasselled swoop.

Carrying the show were the usual suspects: Wishee Washee  and Widow Twankey. Wishee Washee (Tim Vine) takes to the stage, punctuating the script with effortless comic timing and charismatic charm. The situation comic took on the role of Aladdin’s bumbling brother perfectly, later revealing his impressive improvisational skills, providing pure comic excellence for genuine laughter without the prompts of a script. Vine of course, excels in these areas, securing that the audience leave the theatre on his side. Remarkable Richmond favourite Graham Hoadly boldly returns to the theatre to steal the show as the impossible Dame, Widow Twankey. Hoadly truly gleams amongst the ensemble and has the audience crying with laughter up to the final scene. If you only see one Panto this season, Aladdin will not disappoint. 

This production runs until 13 January 2013

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