Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Aladdin – a pantomime that is bright and brash, confident and classic (Waterfront Studio until Saturday 31 December)

Audience participation from the very beginning? Tick. Cheesy Tik Tok songs and dancing? Getting the baddie’s name deliberately wrong? Throwing in a few phrases to go over the heads of the kids? Singing contest? Making fun of Glenavy, Lurgan and Bangor? Running through the auditorium? All ticked in Aladdin, this year’s Waterfront pantomime.

Neil Keery’s Widow Twankey owns the laundrette in Ballylaganbogey and struts around in bright dresses and high heel boots, lightly roasting a few favourite audience members in the front row. The ever-youthful Gavin Peden is back on his regular Christmas stage playing Twankey’s rascal of a son, Aladdin: a regular Peeping Tom who catches the eye of Princess Jasmine (Tanya Shields). Cue the arrival of a saddled-up policeman with a heavy French accent, played by the gloriously boisterous Rhodri Lewis. Chris Mohan’s evil Abanazar – or was it Abanabbeycentre? – encourages booing, while the sure-footed and shimmering Fairy of the Ring (Vicky Allen) dances the socks off the rest of the cast.

Will Aladdin get his “three gorgeous wee wishes for rubbing the lamp”? Will the Empress force her daughter to eschew the peasant and instead marry “a prince who doesn’t even sweat”? Will Widow Twankey fall for a scam? And “why is there a hippo in my garden?”

The tunes and moves (directed by Katie Richardson and Paula O’Reilly) that pepper the production provide a lot of energy, while the rich sound effects and wordplay add laughs. A prize will be awarded to the first child who asks “what’s a throuple?” on the way home! Stuart Marshall’s garish set is blessed with an upper deck, though it is underused in the frequent chase sequences.

Voyeurism, kidnap, a child playing in a washing machine, forced marriage, and scamming unsuspecting widows. Pantomime can take anything and put it through Widow Twankey’s mangle to create something fun and festive!

Aladdin is up to the GBL Productions/Waterfront’s usual high standard of Christmas fare with a Patrick J O’Reilly script that Chris Robinson moulds into a confident, family-friendly, classic panto with a cast of six. It’s bright and brash: you’ll not shed any tears, but you might be hoarse shouting by the end.

Aladdin continues at the Waterfront Studio until Saturday 31 December. In parallel, the shorter 75-minute Adult Aladdin will be tickling older late night audiences at the tail end of each week

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