Pantomime review: Aladdin, Greenwich Theatre
The pantomime at Greenwich Theatre is always a highlight of an excellent and varied run of productions at the venue throughout the year. This winter’s offering, Aladdin, is up to the usual high standard.
The theatre prides itself on not casting star names to pull in the punters and relies on strong writing, presentation and performances to get audiences going back year after year. It has drawn critical praise for this approach and we locals love it - this is my family’s fifth annual visit.
A big draw is Andrew Pollard, as the dame - Widow O’Twankey this year - who has written the past seven pantos and appeared in six of them. Definitely in the Les Dawson school of dames, he is the charismatic glue that holds the production together while wearing outfits that get more outrageous as the show progresses, including one here that resembles a giant box of noodles.
Also making a return to Greenwich is Adam Dougal, as Aladdin, after appearing as Buttons in Cinderella last year. His Belfast accent being explained away by him being half-Irish, half-Chinese (hence his mother being Widow O’Twankey). A high point (in every sense) has him flying on a magic carpet to Katy Perry’s Firework - an impressive feat in a relatively small theatre. The Irish theme is also taken up amusingly again when Aladdin, Widow O’Twankey and the Emperor Fu (Paul Critoph) take off Riverdance, complete with Jedward mask-wearing dummies hanging from the dame’s shoulders, to rescue love interest Princess So-Shy (Laura Wickham) from the wonderfully wicked Abanazar (Anthony Spargo).
Daniel Norford playing the Genie like MC Hammer (‘Stop, Genie time’) is outstanding in a uniformly excellent cast and ensemble.
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The script has many local references to enjoy, such as this exchange: ‘I come from the East’, ‘What Plumstead?’, ‘No, the Far East’, ‘What Gravesend?’; the DLR is referred to as a ‘dark and awful place’; and when a character is threatened with death by a thousand cuts, Widow O’Twankey pipes up with, ‘I know about painful cuts; I’ve lived under a coalition government’.
Slickly paced, great sets, costumes and choreography, a fun mash-up of songs - including Lady Gaga’s Edge of Glory and Born This Way, Paolo Nutini’s Pencil Full Of Lead, Spandau Ballet’s Gold and Katy Perry’s California Girls reimagined as Peking Girls featuring a brilliant rap by the emperor, ensure Greenwich is on to a winner again this year. Oh, yes it is (sorry).
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‘It’s the best one yet,’ chorused my nieces Izzy, nine, and Sophie, seven, already set on going again next year.
Aladdin runs until January 8. For tickets, visit www.greenwichtheatre.org.uk or call 020 8858 7755.