There are some excellent things in this Aladdin. Cavin Cornwall, whom I fondly remember at Caiaphas in Open Air Theatre Regents Park’s production of Jesus Christ Superstar, is the best Abanazer I’ve ever seen. Styled as a slimy estate agent in a very loud striped suit he minces, wheedles, cackles and commands the stage every time he appears. He also has hilarious legs – very slim in tight trousers, completed by show off pointy shoes and attached to an actor who has a John Cleeseian knack of making them funny. Then there’s that basso profundo voice. Yes, even the six year old I took with me said she thought he was the best thing in the show.
Siobahn Athwal gives a witty performance as both Genies – with different voices, two costumes, a lot of quick changes and a crack about theatre having been through two terrible years and therefore unable to afford two actors. Emma Ralston is entertaining as Frankie, Aladdin’s sister who replaces the Wishy Washy role and Rosie Cava-Beale sings beautifully as Princess Amirah. Toby Miles as Aladdin is a fair singer once he gets going and he can certainly dance and act convincingly.
I was also impressed by the use of projection including the Horsham photographs which form part of the set and the flying carpet sequence which uses images to create the illusion of movement. And putting the (very good) four piece band stage left in a band stand, steps to which form part of the set, is an original idea which makes deals with potential timing issues and makes the music feel coherent. It looks pretty too.
But – and of course there has to be one if not several – Morgan Brind’s script is witty but far too wordy and some of the songs are too long. The long narrative preamble is not a happy start when you have an audience full of very young children. There are a lot of good jokes tucked away but most of them are also thrown away. I have rarely seem comic timing so woefully mismanaged by so many actors in a pantomime. There is, for example, a sequence of quite clever fish puns which ought to produce a lot of laughter and groans. In fact it’s raced through so fast that most of it is lost. Of course there’s a place for word play in a panto but children need a lot of visual humour too and there’s very little slapstick in this show which has no slosh scene. The only time the children really got excited in the performance I saw was during the ghost scene (Yetis in Iceland in this instance) – just five minutes in a two and half hour show. The result of all this was that many children in the audience were very restive although “my” six year old was more engaged in the stronger second half than the first. If panto doesn’t fully work for children then it’s missing the point.
First published by Sardines: https://www.sardinesmagazine.co.uk/review/aladdin-18/