Writers: Phil Lowe and David Bown
Director: Phil Lowe
Reviewer: Ron Simpson
As always Harrogate Theatre’s pantomime is crammed with traditional features, to the delight of the youthful audience. On the other hand, Phil Lowe and David Bown’s script contains plenty of new elements: Abanazar becomes a would-be master criminal and twin to the Emperor of China, Agent Jane Blonde mounts incompetent surveillance on the Emperor and his daughter, and there’s a panda in the plot!
Though Katy Dean, doubling as a feisty Genie, is suitably cool as Blonde, as are her two youthful henchmen, these scenes don’t add a lot, but Pandora the Panda (Hannah Margerison) is sweet and makes a fair fist of leading the sing-song – surely a first! The Abanazar/Emperor double works really well. Tom Peters, a camp and menacing villain pathetically seeking the love of the audience, makes the most of the switches from world domination to conversational asides and has fun with the quick character changes. Even so, it was a relief to find the “New lamps for old” scene appearing: Harrogate hasn’t entirely lost touch with the traditional Abanazar.
Despite the unpredictability of parts of the plot, Aladdin is in many ways very predictable – and predictably entertaining. Tim Stedman (Wishee Washee) is clocking up his 14th Harrogate pantomime and the cast is full of returning actors. Stedman, in particular, comes up fresh with his amiable buffoonery, treading a line between Benny Hill and Michael Crawford, getting the audience enthusiastically on his side from the start. However, there is a certain familiarity about some of the routines.
Philip Stewart’s Widow Twankey is all crazy frocks, awful rhymes and outrageous puns; though it’s pretty much innuendo-free, the script is sometimes uneasily poised between adult and child-friendly. Colin Kiyani (Aladdin) and Pamela Dwyer (Princess So-Shy) make the most of relatively limited opportunities, he energetic and heroic in between clowning with the silly boys of the cast, she attractively direct and with an appealing way with a song.
Foxton’s designs – from the Great Wall of China to downtown Peking/Harrogate – are attractive and witty. The best pun of the evening is concealed in the notice on a dentist’s door: “Open 2.30”, tooth-hurty, as they say in pantomime China. His magnificent laundry machine gives hope of more slosh than actually materialises, but things improve when Wishee Washee’s suit is pressed with him inside. Far and away the best routine, though, is the table tennis match between Wishee Washee and Abanazar, black-based illusion with spectacular retrieving and a ball with a mind of its own.
Nick Lacey’s small pit band is suitably resourceful and Amie Liddle choreographs a stylish quartet of young dancers, joined by Alice Barrott who is apparently also an all-purpose understudy.
Runs until 17 January 2016 | Image: Contributed