Writer and Director: Richard Gauntlett
Reviewer: Lu Greer
The time has arrived at the Norwich Theatre Royal once again when giant wigs and near day glow costumes grace the stage when the panto arrives in town. The show, again written and directed by Theatre Royal stalwart Richard Gauntlett, this time takes on an adventure to the Far East in the classic Aladdin.
As the stage opens onto a bazaar it’s clear that the set designers have made the most of the Far East setting, creating a bustling stage full of colour which transports the audience to the town of Norwidge (albeit a town with the colour contrast turned a little too far up). Taking on the title role of the dreamer Aladdin is Steven Roberts who gives the audience a slightly goofy and entirely loveable portrayal of the character. Starring opposite him as the princess is Anna Hannides whose previous work as a Disney princess is apparent throughout with her outstanding stage presence and impressive vocals.
The sweet nature of the pair’s chemistry works perfectly with Rik Makerem’s Abanazar who, after a fourteen-year break from panto, frequently claims the spotlight as he sweeps into scenes utterly controlling the tone of the stage and acting every inch the classic bad guy ripe for booing.
Reviving their usual panto roles, Richard Gauntlett brings us a Widow Twankey with costumes that defy belief, and Ben Langley returns as her son Wishee-Washee. The familiarity the pair have with each other is evident every time they’re on stage, as they bounce off each other with exemplary comic timing showcasing everything that can be wonderful about panto.
As always with a Norwich Theatre Royal panto, there is one scene which goes above and beyond both in comedy and the sheer chaos of the moment. This year, that scene featured characters shrunk in the wash, magic carpets, and missing lighting rigs in a joke that had the audience guffawing and spawned just the right amount of callbacks.
From start to finish, it seems that this year’s panto has stepped up a notch, with memorable songs, hilarity throughout, and more than a few scenes that will stick with this the audience well into the New Year. There are, as always, wayward props, a missed cue, and a bum note or two but in a world of non-traditional pantos and alternative stories, at its heart, this show really is a night of fun for all the family. In the audience, there are multiple generations of families all laughing at the exploits of the dame, and booing Abanazar, with parents laughing throughout at jokes that sail over the children’s heads. This isn’t a whole new world of panto, but it’s an excellent ride on a magic carpet.
Runs until 13 January 2019 | Image: Simon Finlay Photography