If you’re willing to overlook some outrageous racial stereotyping, then Aladdin is as glitzy, spectacular and eccentric as you could want a Christmas panto to be.
Let’s get the uncomfortable bit out of the way. The show, set in China and Egypt, uses an offensive pan-Oriental selection of Sikh turbans, Buddhist icons, and Indian elephants, not to mention the children in black wigs and straw hats wobbling their heads with their hands in prayer position. There is also something wrong with having a character called Sum Ting Wong, one of many similar cringe-inducing puns. That’s only the tip of the iceberg I don’t want to explore the bottom of.
But let’s focus on the fun part. With everything from pyrotechnics and flying carpets to life sized elephants and giant Egyptian mummies, the production is an absolute extravaganza. Between the detailed costumes and elaborate sets, Aladdin has more glitz than a disco-ball. It’s absolute madness and the kids love it.
Maslen plays a suitably evil Abanazar with a twist: as well as omnipotent power he wants to be ‘the greatest ballroom dancer in the uuuniverse’. Jokes about Maslen’s stint on Strictly abound, and one child in the audience yells, ‘cut off his head’. Gallagher’s Wishee Washee is as high-energy and unbelievably zany as you’d expect from the children’s TV presenter. He has the kids shrieking with excitement, putting the din in Aladdin.
Aloueche, playing The Spirit of the Ring, stands out as the most talented cast member by far, showcasing her background in some serious London musicals. As well as singing and dancing, she reveals an unexpectedly funny side (considering she has performed in the none-too-cheery Les Mis). The audience also goes wild for her rendition of ‘Let it Go’, that ubiquitous song fromFrozen, that has been haunting parents for a whole year now.
The costume and staging is spectacular. Each of Widow Twanky’s wigs is more detailed and outrageous than the one before it, to the point where she balances an entire basket of cleaning products on her head, the rubber gloves slapping people every time she moves. Twanky’s scenes are, of course, show stealers. From mag gags to strip-tease, to a rendition of the 12 Days of Christmas featuring custard pies and water pistols, Roddy’s Twanky is feisty and does some great ad lib. One unscripted remark sees her address a bald man in the audience with, ‘who parted your hair – Moses?’. Audience participation, as you can imagine, is obligatory and enthusiastic, at least for the younger patrons.
- Writer/Director: Paul Hendy
- Musical Director: Chris Wong
- Producer: Evolution Productions and The Marlowe Theatre
- Cast includes: Scott Maslen, Phil Gallagher, Ben Roddy and Sabrina Aloueche
- The Marlowe Theatre, Canterbury
- Until 11th January 2015
- Review by S. A. McCracken
- 03 December 2014