Reviewed by Rosalie Carter
New Wimbledon Theatre
Playing until 12th January 2014
I love a spot of Panto. I love screaming “He’s behind you”. I love the ghosties and the ghoulies who interrupt a good sing song (“Well, we’ll have to do it again then won’t we? Whoops!) And most of all I love middle aged balding men in drag declaring that their smalls need a good washing. The New Wimbledon’s production of Aladdin is certainly a glitzy affair with flamethrowers, pumping music and sequins galore but I couldn’t help but wonder if it had sacrificed some of its heart and replaced it with glamour.
The opening of the show is slightly tacky with a large screen showing adverts that make it seem a bit like the cinema, rather than a theatrical extravaganza. But, in all fairness money is tight in the showbiz industry so I doff my cap at them for finding the funding. The rest of the show is a fast paced whizz through old Peking, the Cave of Treasures and a quick pit stop in the Middle East where a likely bunch of characters cause mayhem and fall in love.
The “star draw” this year is the deadpan comic Jo Brand. While I understand that her shtick is to be a grumpy middle aged woman, there were times when I felt like shaking her and reminding her that she was in Panto, not a Swedish crime drama. But the rest of the cast more than make up for her in energy. Matthew Kelly is a marvelous Dame; matronly but saucy, jovial and boundless. In the title role of Aladdin, Oliver Thornton is a cheeky chappy who has the care-free attitude that easily wins over Princess Jasmine. But it is Flawless who induce the greatest number of whoops and cheers from the crowd. With their slick dance moves, effortlessly cool personas and not so shabby physique, the group push this Panto into the 21st century.
Although veering slightly from the traditional Panto route, New Wimbledon’s Aladdin is a great way to spend and evening and parents with teenagers will clamber all over this show that might drag their offspring away from their iphones and into the theatre.