Think your days of enjoying panto are behind you? Oh no they’re not!
Aladdin arrived at Edinburgh’s King’s Theatre last week, a few months after a preview on this site stated that “the effects are impressive, the actors in fine form. Let’s hope they compliment each other well and inject some much needed energy into a tired art form.” So has the final product lived up to its early promise?
Opening with a glimpse into the dark world of Abanazer (Grant Stott) as he sets his plan in motion to rule the world, the show then moves into a lively number from High School Musical. Into this saccharine madness arrives Widow Twankey in the shapely form of Allan Stewart, a man for whom it would seem panto was invented.
From here the panto constantly threatens to turn into The Allan Stewart Show, which is admittedly no bad thing. With years of experience, Stewart is the perfect panto dame, his barrage of jokes and ability to keep proceedings on an even keel a thing of theatrical beauty.
A number of plot points intertwine to keep things powering along. Abanazer’s plan is simple enough to follow, while Aladdin’s (an effervescent Johnny Mack) love for the Princess (Nieve Jennings) is pared down to the most basic elements – they meet each other, they’re in love.
Then, something happens halfway through which suddenly changes Twankey and Aladdin’s situation forever, giving the audience a new perspective on panto that needs to be seen to be appreciated: the genie goes 3D.
With the entire back of the stage turned into a giant screen and 3D glasses donned, the audience is transported to another world, where the genie hangs above the auditorium and opens his bag of tricks for the amazed onlookers.
This effect is rolled out a few more times, the children present clearly loving every second of it. It’s a neat trick and it does stick in the memory, but as mentioned above, Allan Stewart has enough energy to put any technical trickery into the shade.
While the story does have a few problems – Widow Twankey’s turn from rags to riches gets muddled somewhere before the interval, the love story has zero substance and the double entendres are occasionally too near the knuckle – there’s still much to recommend it.
Thanks to its glossy sheen – it looks like a fair few gold coins were spent on its set and costume design – and some superb singing from the entire cast and music from a live orchestra, this is undoubtedly a memorable night out and you could do worse than taking a flying carpet ride to the King’s this Christmas.
Review by Jonathan Melville
Visit the King’s Theatre website for more information.