FOR a theatre on the smaller side, the Kenton packed a mighty punch with this year’s Christmas production of Aladdin.
It had a pinch of faux-jaded, eye-rolling cynicism for the adults (“oh, no, it didn’t!”) and yet brought the story to life for the children with a selection of pop songs and colourful costumes and scenery. With great singing and fabulous little skits this got the whole audience cheering and jeering. An early, well-timed aside about the “silent treatment” had me giggling.
Aladdin (James Clifford) is called on by a trickster, evil magician Abanazar (Dan Jennings), who needs him to access hidden treasures. He prevaricates, but when he meets the Princess he really needs to make his fortune and prove he can support her. We follow his adventures as he tries to keep his girl and defeat the bad guy who is, incidentally, bad to the bone.
We launched straight into the action with the arrival of Abanazar, a villain with just the right amount of ham who at points was definitely channelling Matt Berry (I mean this as a compliment), purveyor of Thespian parody. The story progressed as the characters travelled on foot — after the Slave of the Ring (Fiona Allan) had made it pointedly clear that she didn’t do short cuts — between the cave, Peking and other venues.
We met Widow Twankey (Dan Creasey), complete with Les Dawsonesque shoulder-shrugging, and a great rendition of Afternoon Delight.
Ladies’ man Aladdin was cheeky and flirtatious but regained his decorum when he was joined onstage by some little ones for a singalong.
Aladdin’s buddy PC Pong (James Gwynne) carried out a hilarious slapstick routine involving the washing, which also gave us comic fodder and a new twist on certain garments.
Aladdin and the Princess (Alice Pitt-Carter) duetted beautifully and the Princess also gave a stand-up performance of River Deep Mountain High, ably abetted by her cohort of four singing and dancing ladies. The Slave of the Ring and the Genie of the Lamp (Rochelle Parry) engaged with the audience and PC Pong added some comedy moves and kids’ humour (watch out for his nickname and an Egyptian dance).
It was interesting to see the Emperor (Philip Antony) onstage knowing he once trod the boards alongside Laurence Olivier and he had both gravitas and a seasonal twinkle in his eye. There was a clever scene involving Abanazar, Aladdin, an extra character and a trick of perspective which I thought was delightful and innovative, likewise a homage to Harrison Ford was enjoyable.
My five-year-old son’s verdict was that the panto was “awesome” and he was even able to appreciate the theme tune to Friends as we happened to have caught a rerun that day. Even my two-year-old son, in a somewhat fractious mood (my apologies, yes, that was us noisily moving to the back), found time to appreciate the loud bangs when the Genie arrived and he certainly enjoyed the big stage numbers.
Last but certainly not least, the children in the cast were delightful, with perfect timing and behaviour and a well-co-ordinated dragon. Aladdin at the Kenton Theatre is a heartwarming, riproaring success.
Saturday, December 21