Writer &Director: Mark Cox
Reviewer: Dominic Corr
Can you feel it? That tangible aura of campness and cheap gags, altered pop hits and glitter galore. Not only is winter approaching, not only is it the time of frost and overpriced festive markets, it is also that most welcomed, yet feared season of all; panto time.
That most British of traditions graces our stages and village halls once again and returning once more to the Brunton this year is Still Game star Mark Coxes new pantomime; Aladdin. Of course, this traditional Arabian tale will not be transporting the residents of East Lothian into the scorched deserts of Arabia, but instead the chilly streets (though awfully bright) of Musselburgh.
Aladdin McFadyen (yes, you read that correctly) is true to the classic tale; a down on his luck lad accused of theft. Wanting nothing more than to care for his mother Widow Twankey (Keith McLeish) and win the heart of Princess Jasmine (Eilidh Weir). Fooled into finding the enchanted lamp, Aladdin must clear his name and defeat the villainous foe.
Speaking of which, everyone adores a villain, and if they disagree they are lying. Princesses and heroes grow tiresome and drab with age but our love for the antagonist never goes away. Richard Conlon excels as our Panto baddie; Abanazar. Hammy and obvious, Conlon thrives among the hisses emanating from the children, the stamp of any good performance. Vocally Conlon is also impressive leading three numbers, one a rather decent mix up of the recent Robbie Williams number Party Like a Russian – just to really force that school Christmas party feel.
McLeish too is fully comfortable in the guise of the dame, hitting all the timing notes and playing well with those oh so lucky men in the audience. Our lead performers are clean-cut and more than likeable, clean-cut goodies for the festive period. Adorned in wonderful costume against a meticulously well-crafted and designed set-piece, all of the cast performs with heart for the young crowd.
Aladdin’s biggest fall back is that it isn’t enough of a pantomime, which is a unique complaint. The production is too child-friendly and little of the jokes will cause parents and even older children to chuckle. Pantomime is a safe space for children, it is at its core an entertainment for all. Clean, friendly and fun, but so true to its roots in this country’s theatre, it predominately hides a razor edge of innuendo. So many missed opportunities are painstakingly clear and should be taken advantage of. When there is ad-libbing, it usually garners the strongest response from the older crowd.
Mark Cox and the Brunton have crafted another charming yearly pantomime, it continues from the success of last year’s Cinderella but builds little from it. It ticks all of the panto boxes and even generates a few more laughs here and there. Aladdin though is very much a children’s pantomime which is, most importantly, who this production has been lovingly created for.
Runs until 31 December 2016 | Image: Contributed