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REVIEW: Aladdin, The Anvil - until January 5
YOU know you’re the baddie in a panto when you’re clad in purple and black and your appearances on stage are preceded by a plume of green smoke!
Former Doctor Who Colin Baker as Abanazar does an excellent job garnering boos from his audiences in this year’s Gazette-sponsored Anvil Arts Christmas show, which is another triumph for its director Ian Good, who so successfully staged Snow White in the venue last year.
Mr Baker even makes his exit in a very familiar blue box, something which will be sure to delight all fans of a certain BBC science fiction show.
I joined an audience of local schoolchildren – including Winklebury Infant School - who were in the mood for a party from the off, clapping merrily along to Christmas tunes.
And they seemed to delight in every aspect of this fun production, from the broader pratfalls and slapstick to the more gentle romantic moments. They were absolutely caught up in the drama of Abanazar’s plot to thwart Aladdin’s (Hook’s Chris Carswell, a super leading man) dreams of marriage to the beautiful Princess Jasmine (a very elegant Rebecca Marks), yelling deafening instructions to try and help their hero out of a jam.
Leading the silliness are children’s presenter Derek Moran, fantastic as Aladdin’s brother Wishee Washee and the director himself as Widow Twankey, a woman whose domestically-themed outfits are as outré as we’d expect. Ian’s dame is in keeping with tradition, and has some cheeky one-liners and jokes with which to entertain the adults.
The pair have a riot of a time as they muck around in the laundry – Wishee is mangled and shrunk – play sweaty socks and ponder whose pants are whose.
There’s plenty of clean fun amongst all of the wordplay, too - “Have you got a police record? I've got Walking On the Moon on CD” – plus digs at Reading, Woking, Portsmouth and politicians.
Kids will adore the duo’s set-pieces, several of which see them joined by PC Pong (magician and entertainer Mark James), and the Twelve Days of Christmas sketch is a particular (bonkers) delight.
Audiences seem to particularly treasure those bits of interaction when they can shout back to the performers and there are quite a few provided during the running time, including one involving a cuddly dog named Tiddles.
Well-chosen musical numbers include One Direction’s Best Song Ever, Christina Perri’s A Thousand Years, Rihanna's Diamond and a lovely rendition of Taylor Swift and Ed Sheeran’s Everything Has Changed by Aladdin and Jasmine.
Foo Fighters’ Flying accompanies one of the big moments of the production, Aladdin’s carpet ride, such an impressive effect that it inspired the young students to spontaneously applaud.
Congratulations must also go to the hardworking students from North Hampshire Academy of Dance and Basingstoke Academy of Dance who are a key part of the ensemble, performing on alternate shows.
Full performance details are online now at anvilarts.org.uk or call the box office on 01256 844244.