With Above The Stag presently homeless, they have taken their panto to the Landor this year.
Jon Bradfield and Martin Hooper’s script takes a new look at Aladdin. In this version, when he and his widowed mother stumble on an ancient lamp, they are forced to flee their Clapham Chinese laundry to Hao Hung. They are pursued by the cunningly queer Abanazer, the Gimp of the Ring and a blundering Scotland Yard detective. All the while, ‘single but experienced’ Widow Twankey searches for a loving man, Aladdin falls for geek-chic Prince Char Ming and the frustrated Genie of the Lamp tries to make their wishes come true.
This is a delightfully ramshackle offering, with all the best ingredients; crude jokes, casual racism, coarseness, topical references and a good helping of sequin-encrusted camp on top. Bradfield and Hooper even manage to squeeze in the odd moment of meaningful and timely political comment. There is an air of organised chaos about the production (with technical difficulties to rival the O2) that compounds the hilarity already present. Although some of the cast are not totally at home in the intimate space of the Landor Theatre, they maintain a good level of energy throughout.
the production is a vibrant, lively, rough-and-ready romp
There are some wonderful comic performances; Greg Airey as the strapping Aladdin is a natural lead who pilots the show with gusto. Josh Rochford gives a stunning performance as Widow Twankey, matched perfectly by Matthew Baldwin, whose Abanazer is the Alan Sugar of panto villains. Other stand-out performances come from Sarah Dearlove as a sexually frustrated Genie of the Lamp, George Bull as a nerdy but endearing Prince Char Ming and Philip Lawrence as a lecherous Emperor.
David Shields’ design, while being on the clunky side, is appropriately gaudy, while costumes are colourful, with some lovely modern touches; Aladdin’s Topman t-shirts are combined with more recognisable Oriental costume. Paired with Richard Lambert’s ambitious lighting design, the production is a vibrant, lively, rough-and-ready romp.
There are moments where the backing tracks overpower the voices of the cast, of which only a few are strong. The songs are well chosen, though, with some lovely moments where the audience spontaneously sing along, despite there being no ‘audience sing along.’
Director Andrew Beckett has has created a wonderfully entertaining, fiercely crude and enduringly funny production with a somewhat anarchic, frenzied atmosphere. Bradfield and Hooper’s fourth annual Above The Stag pantomime has done it again; Oh yes, it has!
**** (4 stars)
Runs until January 12th