Friday, 22 February 2019

Panto delivers a magical carpet ride

Panto delivers a magical carpet ride

Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves | Corn Exchange, Wallingford | Tuesday, January 22

WHO doesn’t love a pantomime? And there is much to love about The Sinodun Players’ Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves, which is running at the Corn Exchange, Wallingford, until Saturday, February 2.

Caroline Wilkes’s jaunty production of Alan Frayn’s witty script makes for a very enjoyable evening’s entertainment.

Walk into the auditorium and there’s a sense of eager anticipation from a mixed audience of young and old.

Marilyn Johnstone’s jolly set conjures up an Eastern setting in bright crayon tones. Johnstone’s exotic costumes and Violet Matthew’s lighting make this production a visual delight.

Ali Baba is a tale from the Arabian Nights and that narrative framework is maintained by having onstage as storyteller and listener the magnificently dressed Scheherazade (Kirsty Van Den Bulk) and the Sultan (Mark Wilkin).

Wilkes’s direction brings out the best in a very strong cast, all full of zest and good humour — especially when they need to double up to create the illusion of all 40 thieves on stage! Zoe Nielsen as Ali Baba is the perfect principal boy. In a very funny production brimming with puns, jokes, slapstick and a pantomime camel, special credit goes to the magnificent Fiona Huntingford-Ledger as anchor comic Mustafa and to Richard Doughty as the fabulous pantomime dame, Fatima.

Equally compelling are the good and bad fairies in their cat and dog rivalry — Barbara Wood as the sleek and sweet Caterina and Rebecca Cleverley as the villainous, assertive Alsatia add a glamorous touch.

Music, song and dance are of a high standard: the show contains some great numbers. Expect plenty of audience interaction in true pantomime tradition.

This colourful spectacle is sure to bring a smile to your face on a cold winter’s day, so go and see it for a magic carpet ride to Old Baghdad.

Susan Creed

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