The story of Aladdin is a Middle Eastern folk tale associated with The Arabian Nights, despite not being part of the original text.
Aladdin is an impoverished young local lad, living on the Sturry Road in Canterbury. He is recruited by the wicked Ivan, whose his real motive is to persuade young Aladdin to retrieve a magic lamp from a nearby cave. Aladdin finds himself trapped in the cave however he discovers the lamp and when he rubs it an all-powerful genie appears and releases him from the cave, allowing him to return to Dame Dolly’s joke emporium, rich and powerful and able to marry Princess Jasmine. Ivan hears of Aladdin’s good fortune, and returns; he gets his hands on the lamp by tricking Princess Jasmine (who is unaware of the lamp’s importance) by offering to exchange “new lamps for old”. Aladdin still has the magic ring he was given by the Spirit of the Ring and with the help of a magic carpet he recovers the lamp and defeats Ivan, and everyone lives happily ever after.
This is a magnificent production which re-enforces Evolution as the UK’s number one pantomime producer. From the opening bars of Bring Me Sunshine to the musical highlight of the show, I Predict a Riot by The Kaiser Chiefs, the song choices are utterly inspired. It would appear that Director and Writer Paul Hendy has trawled through his personal record collection (and mine as well) to come up with unusual tracks you’ve never heard in a pantomime before. The Clash, Pulp, Radiohead, David Bowie and Wheatus are all referenced whilst the inspired Born to Pun (a rewritten version of Springsteen’s Born to Run almost reduced this reviewer to tears for it’s innovative brilliance. A special nod to Musical Director Chris Wong celebrating 29 years in panto at the Marlowe for pulling off such an eclectic mix of genres.
Central to the Marlowe’s pantomime is comedy and this year exceeds all expectations. Hendy is clearly a fan of the comedy greats with subtle references to Morecambe and Wise, Tommy Cooper and the greatest of them all, Laurel and Hardy. Ben Roddy marking his 15th year at the Marlowe is hilarious as Dame Dolly and together with Phil Gallagher (aka Mr Maker) as Charlie, they make the perfect comedy duo. There is a warmth about their relationship which evidently exists beyond the world of pantomime and you’ll be hard pushed to find a funnier panto double act this Christmas. They are ably supported by Zain Abrahams as the inventively named PC World.
The major revelation of the show as Ivan Tochacha is Strictly Come Dancing’s Kevin Clifton making his pantomime debut in Canterbury. Clifton is obviously an outstanding dancer but here he reveals himself to be a superb singer with natural comic timing and a delightful ability to poke fun at himself. There is excellent support also from Courtney Bowman as the Spirit of the Ring and in particular, Alistair So as the eponymous Aladdin and Lauren Chia as Princess Jasmine. Their opening love medley backed by a cinematic-style comic book is first class storytelling rarely seen outside of London’s West End.
Burnt Toast’s magic carpet is the best I’ve ever seen and there is a brilliant and most impressively, original front cloth scene involving push buttons that play pop songs which reflect what each character is thinking – comedy gold!
Last year, I asked why can’t all pantomimes be this good? The answer is Hendy’s evident love of classic comedy, his preparedness to take risks and not rely on routines that have become tedious over the years – even the traditional ghost gag is executed with a freshness you are unlikely to see elsewhere and Evolution’s uncanny ability to assemble a simply super-talented cast to perform a wonderfully funny script in an absolutely beautiful theatre.
I absolutely loved it!
Reviewer: Patric Kearns