REVIEW: ALADDIN (The Lighthouse, Poole’s Centre for the Arts) ★★★

It’s coming up to Christmas so for many places such as The Lighthouse, Poole’s Centre for the Arts, that means it’s panto season.This year’s panto is ALADDIN: written, directed and starring Peter Dunan (Abanazer), alongside Max Bowden (Aladdin). Sapphire Elia (Princess XiaoXue) and Adam Price (Widow Twankey). Filled with upbeat songs such as Can’t Stop The Feeling (Justin Timberlake) and Love Me Like You Do (Ellie Goulding); colourful costumes and many pyrotechnics; it was a real crowd pleaser.

Upon entering it was nice to see that the decoration of the foyer paid homage to the Chinese roots of the original Aladdin fairy tale. There were silks and Chinese lanterns hanging from the ceiling to get people in the mood for the setting of Peking. In this particular interpretation, Aladdin began as an audience member who transported back in time and accidentally became the protagonist (opting after he married Princess XiaoXue to stay in the world of the panto rather than return to his life in 2016). He got trapped in a cave only to find the Genie in the lamp and become a prince, winning the love of Princess XiaoXue in the process. However soon after, Abanazer stole the lamp back and kidnapped the princess. Of course all became well for the hero in the end and Aladdin managed to retrieve the lamp in a rather abrupt and slightly anti-climatic way, ending the show.

Max Bowden’s vocals were fantastic and he carried the panto well, interacting brilliantly with the audience and the child he brought onto the magic carpet with him. Sapphire Elia was equally talented and portrayed the role of the stereotypical princess with great ethusiasm. Adam Price’s performance as Widow Twankey was humorous, even if some of the humour may not have been intentional, such as his wig getting knocked off as the backdrop for one the sets came down – it just made his character even better loved by the audience. Miguel Angel played the Genie and had a wide array of costumes, impersonating Michael Jackson, David Bowie and Freddie Mercury as the panto progressed. Although his stage time was short comparatively to the rest of them, he dominated the performance whenever her was on. The comedy duo Chris Larner and Laura Curnick played the roles of bumbling clowns in a way that was perfect for panto’s target audience: families. The role of the villainous Abanazer was played by Peter Duncan and was bombarded with booing and hissing every time he entered: a tribute to his success at playing the antagonist.

ALADDIN had a fun-filled, family-friendly atmosphere and adhered to all of the panto traditions such as singing along, other audience participation, slapstick and the occasional innuendo. A nice way to get into the Christmas spirit.

Reviewed by Thomas Barrett
Photo: Richard Budd

ALADDIN plays at The Lighthouse, Poole until 8 January 2017