I hated panto as a kid. Partly because I couldn’t understand why all these silly adults would never just turn the hell around and look behind them, but mainly because I resented never being picked to go up on stage for the free sweets. Once I achieved the wizened age of 8, I was thrilled to pronounce that I was too old for it and would never be dragged there with Brownies again. That was until now…
Aladdin is the panto taking up residence at Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch, boasting a brightly-coloured cornucopia of pleasures this festive season. Keeping closer to the traditional fairytale than I, perhaps naively, expected, this production looks fantastic, with laughs for kids and adults alike. Set in the mythical land of Hornchurchopolis, Aladdin (Aaron Teoh), son of washerwoman Betty Bagwash (Alex Wadham), dreams of becoming a singer, falls in love with the runaway Princess Jasmine (Miiya Alexandra) and encounters a bolshy, wish-granting genie (Lucy Keirl), all whilst dodging various crooks and constabularies.
Every actor onstage has much to do, and the talented troupe assuredly wield their many skills time after time, be it physical comedy, playing musical instruments or belting their way through the excellent song and dance numbers. The musicianship on display is spectacular. Though there isn’t a weakness in the ensemble, for me it’s the villain that stole the show. As Scandinavian bad guy Bjorn Nastee, Dominic Gee-Burch gives it his best swagger and sway as he riles up the crowd, spouting heavily accented dastardly plans that never fail to get the children shrieking. And of course, where would Aladdin be without his magic carpet? The flying carpet is spectacularly done, adding magical flare to Richard Foxton’s vibrant, glitter dusted set.
I’m not a kid person, but even I find that what’s funnier at the panto than the panto itself is the kids reactions, screeching and booing and getting so, so into it. The energy and cheer generated by the smaller audience members is what gives panto that buzz and the Christmassy vibe. People go to panto for the good humour, the laughs, the good time. And Aladdin delivers it all in bucket loads.
As we pass through childhood and move beyond we outgrow countless things. If, like me, you outgrew pantomimes many years ago, I’d advise you make a trip to Hornchurchopolis. You might just find you’re young enough for panto again.
Directed by: Douglas Rintoul
Written by: Andrew Pollard
Music & Lyrics by: Tom Self
Set & costume by: Richard Foxton
Lighting by: Stephen Pemble
Sound by: Nico Menghini
Choreography: Ryan Munroe
Costume Supervisor: Jenny Quirke
Assistant Director: Emma Tolleson
Executive Producer: Matthew Russell
Aladdin plays at Queen’s Theatre until 2 January 2022. Further information and booking via the below link.