Writer & Director: Barrie Hunter
Musical Director: Alan Penman
Not only is there cause to celebrate with the commercial success of Perth Theatre’sAladdin, as it becomes the venue’s most popular panto, but Barrie Hunter’s Perthshire high-flung adventure is one of Scotland’s best pantomimes right now – an ecological thriller (carrying the torch fromJack and the Beanstalklast year) which captures a local sense of pride, principle, and plenty of panache.
Cannily written Aladdincan occasionally be a tricky pantomime for some to navigate while avoiding the unsavoury elements which come from the stories’ history and stereotyping. What Hunter maintains from the original tale is the sense of adventure, the rush of excitement, and the thirst for treasure, treasure lusted over by the stupendously malevolent (yet you have to adore them) Countess Abi McKrankie, performed with such terrific gusto by Helen Logan. It’s a story which isn’t afraid to push the narrative boundaries a touch, and while it can be a touch intense for younger audiences,Aladdincertainly offers them the opportunity to ask questions and stretch their imaginations. Hunter’s is a clever panto, yes, but dinnae worry, there’s still plenty of comedy lurking amidst the trees.
In and around these forests and the great area of Killicrankie, the avaricious Countess, rattling around in their enormous manor, garlanded with crossed chainsaws (to drive the message), uses the curiosity of Aladdin McTwankie to their advantage in a scheme to take control and wealth from the area. Most at risk is the local laundrette – the sole income for Aladdin’s mother and panto dame for the year Margarita McTwankie. Hunter’s role is a booming star straight from the halls of a Victorian concert – but staggeringly without any (well, only a little) of the diva. Warm, inviting, and motherly, it’s the sort of performance which, truly, reminds audiences that we’re coming to that magical time of year.
Tiger Mitchell makes for a charming Aladdin, both in their manner and with some immensely skilled vocals, featuring strong solo performances as the titular character. They’re not alone, with their country-loving bother Hank filling in the role of our loveably affable, comic relief pal with Ewan Somers’ performance bringing plenty of the more traditional and louder laughs from the crowd, especially whenever the script goes off the rails and offers a few fourth wall-breaks. Another favourite panto face to spot, Rachel Flynn, may lose their annual fairy wings for this year’s panto, but instead straps on a pair of cowboy boots as newcomer Heather while Kirsty Malone takes a turn as a peppy and quirky take on ‘Jeannie’, the pair making an impact even with their limited stage time.
Putting their time to good use (and those boots), musical director Alan Penman and choreographer Chris Stuart Wilson’s song and dance routines bring a vibrant sense of parody to some choice tunes from Taylor Swift (a legal requirement for all pantos this year), Shania Twain and Queen. The terrific Becky Minto enjoys dressing the stage in a range of locales, from magic carpet rides to gloomy forests and as much mismatching and garish tartan as physically possible. It’s all brought to additional life with some solid lighting and effects, and an army of young performers as forest critters armed with carrying sound design, the scenes enhanced with some video usage which offers just enough to bring momentum and life without becoming a reliance.
Though many pantos rightly shine their focus on the horrific costs of living and continued abuse of power in elite circles, Hunter’s passionate writing for the contemporary climate crisis continues to bring a new (and vital) Christmas message to audiences. Particularly, younger ones. Merging this with the show’s overarching guidance to live in the moment and the joy which comes from achieving your goals. Certainly, positioning itself as a family-friendly pantomime, whereAladdinmay not have the sharpest of comedic edges, it is a rousingly excitable success which would be a great addition to anyone’s festive season: a high sense of adventure for all.
Runs until 31 December 2023 | Image: Contributed