Writer: Andrew Pollard
Director: Ryan McBryde
Boy meets girl, boy takes girl on magic carpet ride, boy and girl fall in love. We know the story, right? Wrong. The Mercury’s production of Aladdin takes us to a whole new world in which Aladdin is an aspiring Rockstar, and his mum is Widow Twankey, a pantomime dame. In this new take on an old tale Aladdin swaps his magic carpet for a giant flying guitar, Abu for a camel called Humphrey, and is protected by “the power of rock.”
The set is traditional for a pantomime and is truly magnificent, with its elegant design being a highlight of the show (scenic artist, Rhiannan Howell). Similarly, no expense has been spared in regards to costume with every single member of the cast being draped in an array of decadent and exciting outfits (costume supervisor, Corinna Vincent): most notably, Widow Twankey’s collection of headdresses, which act to bring a little extra comedy to each of her scenes.
Antony Stuart-Hicks’ interpretation of the classic pantomime dame is both enthralling and hilarious. With excellent comedic timing and expert interaction with audience members of all ages Stuart-Hicks dominates the stage. Without him, this production may well be a flop.
Dale Superville’s Humphrey the Camel is light-hearted and entertaining. He engages the audience with the classic “he’s behind you” gags and inspires plenty of giggles at the expense of his scaredy cat persona.
Although there is an abundance of talent in this production, it feels as though there is a lack of experience within the pantomime genre. James Hameed who portrays Aladdin is a wonderful singer, capable of captivating the audience with his voice and bubbly character, and yet his reluctance to sway from the script doesn’t quite fit the style of the piece. Similarly, Danielle Kassaraté as Jasmine, while clearly a competent actor, lacks some character dynamic to pull off the pantomime heroine. Further to this, Fabra Cadabra (played by Leonie Spilsbury) doesn’t quite hit the mark with her take on the pantomime villain. Although she has a solid presence on stage, her timing is a fraction off, and her character perhaps a little too subtle. As such Fabra Cadabra doesn’t feel overtly evil. Having said this, the magic tricks performed by Spilsbury are flawless and diverting. The slight-of-hand tricks are an unexpected and enthralling addition which bring a little extra magic to the performance.
It is arguable that pantomime characters are some of the hardest to portray, especially when they are not those based upon humour. There is a difficult balance to be found between the amplified nature of panto characters and maintaining a professional performance and believable characterisation. In this production there is a little work to be done to match the more ‘serious’ characters to the tone of the comedic characters.
Despite this, the show makes for an entertaining night out and is certainly fun for all the family. From an adult perspective it would be just the same if it were a Stuart-Hicks solo gig, but the level of audience participation makes it impossible to deny the draw the show has on the younger members of the audience. The storyline is, of course, great for children and it is clear that the production brings a little magic to their day. Every effort has been taken to transform the stage into a magical escape for children and families to enjoy a night out together this Christmas. This local production is well worth the trip.
Runs until 16 January 2022