Writer: Mike Kenny
Director: Sarah Punshon
Reviewer: May Mellstrom
A frequent pantomime favourite, theatres across the country will undoubtedly be re-telling the story of Aladdin this Christmas, however, one imagines few will surpass the originality and imagination of this festive offering from The Dukes. There are still plenty of playful nods to the audience and opportunities to boo the baddie, but Mike Kenny’s witty adaptation is less traditional panto and more musical fable and is all the better for it.
Beginning in a bustling marketplace, a trader begins to tell the story of an ancient lamp and soon the audience are whisked into the timeless tale of impoverished Aladdin, complete with an enchanted cave, a princess and of course, a magical wish-granting Genie.
Kenny’s version has been performed before in 2010, but still feels contemporary and topical, the references to a royal wedding feel particularly timely and there are lots of laughs to be had from his script and the excellent comic timing from the performers.
The cast work exceptionally hard throughout and their energy fills the stage to the extent that it is hard to believe there are only five performing multiple roles. Marcquelle Ward is charming in the title role; his youthful innocence wins over the audience immediately as he naively falls for the nefarious plot of Arif Javid’s villain, who introduces himself to Aladdin as his long-lost Uncle as part of his quest to steal the lamp for himself. Helen Longworth is very funny as Aladdin’s no-nonsense mother, instantly dismissing the ‘Uncle’ as a ‘drunk’ and wishing only for Aladdin to get a job. Dora Rubinstein’s pampered princess proves to be far more than the stereotypical damsel in distress and Delme Thomas is as dazzling as his costume, leaping and dancing his way around the stage in a crowd-pleasing performance as the flamboyant Genie.
This is the first production at The Dukes from new Artistic Director Sarah Punshon and hopefully a sign of exciting things to come. Her direction here is well-paced and makes full use of the features of the theatre, which is transformed into a mysterious, enchanting space by twinkling lighting and a colourful design.
Just as occasional scenes start to feel too lengthy there is a catchy song from composer Claire Tustin to liven things up and the music is varied and tuneful. With the help of a magic consultant (John Bulleid) there are clever tricks sprinkled throughout and innovative uses of puppetry to surprise and enthrall the audience.
With lots to enjoy whatever your age Aladdin is a lively and entertaining alternative this Christmas for all the family. With children dancing in the aisles by the finale it is clear this fun festive show is a surefire hit and even without a magic lamp, Aladdin will grant the wishes of young and old alike.
Runs until 6 January 2018 | Image: Contributed