Director: Stuart Wade
Costume Designer: Rachael Keverne Rath
Set Designer: Alan Miller-Bunford
Musical Director: Dean McDermot
Reviewer: Louise Jones
Three Bears Productions promises its first pantomime at the Grand Opera House will be “the biggest pantomime ever to be staged at the theatre”. Going off such a tall order, it’s a little underwhelming when we’re met with what’s quite a subdued and static production.
That’s not to say it doesn’t look the part. Alan Miller-Bunford’s sets are beautiful and varied, offering a keen creative eye for transporting us to Old Peking. The costumes too show a careful hand and Rachael Keverne Rath’s spangly range of outfits for Widow Twankey (Steve Wickenden) must be applauded, both for its variety and rapidity of the costume changes.
However, beyond the visuals, the show doesn’t feel as brought to life by its performers as it could be. It’s almost like watching the cast on their last week of performances; they seem tired and don’t deliver enough energy required to give a larger than life pantomime experience.
Steve Wickenden’s Widow Twankey is a stand out performer of the night: a dame with equal parts maternal and tricksy, a perfect combination which he plays with confidence. Suzanne Shaw is a delightfully sugary princess Yasmin, given plenty of opportunities to showcase her skills as a pop princess too. It’s just a little disappointing there are not many chances for either of these performers to really shine in their samey sequences.
It may have been an oversight to give Paul Sinha’s Abanazer so many monologues. Sinha has a great sense of comic timing, and he’s wasted as a brooding baddy. An attempt at mystery results in a bored look as he mumbles through dastardly plans.
The script takes an interesting turn in doubling up Wishee Washee and the Genie of the Lamp (Stuart Wade), but this original take comes with a plot point which is dropped pretty heavy-handedly and undermines the narrative twist.
The 3D element is nice, but it’s Aladdin’s flying carpet that’s the real showstopper scene. This is the one moment when the audience are craning forward from their seats in wonder as Aladdin (Carl Tracey giving an admirable turn) flies over the stalls. It’s a glimpse at what panto should be; magical, showstopping and fun. Unfortunately, it’s a flash in the pan next to the somewhat clumsy sequences that make up the rest of the show. Aladdin has a lavish set and some stunning sequences, but with lacklustre direction sadly doesn’t deliver the magic it has the potential for.
Runs until 1 January 2017 | Image: David Harrison