Image above: Aladdin at the Lyric, Hammersmith
This year’s pantomime at the Lyric, Hammersmith is Aladdin. There’s no single big name in the cast who you know off the telly and I think the show is better for it. It isn’t just a vehicle for some celebrity just back from eating bugs with Ant and Dec to tell smutty jokes to the adults in the audience.
The Lyric’s production is two hours of really good fun with a well-matched team of lead actors pulling together. It never drops pace and offers some of the corniest puns in panto, delivered with panache.
If there’s a stand-out star, it’s the magic carpet, and I mean no disrespect to the actors. I still can’t work out how they made it fly across the stage and out over the audience with no visible means of support. Magic!
Image above – Ellena Vincent as Jasmine
I went with two boys and spoke also to two girls, up with their mum and dad from Somerset specially to see the show. Remi (7) and Kaci (5) chose the panto because the Disney version was their favourite film, watched many times over. Remi liked Aladdin’s sister Wishy best while Kaci’s favourite was Jasmine, in both cases because they were “nice”.
Despite knowing the story inside out and backwards, they liked the ending best. I don’t think I’m spoiling it for anyone to divulge that Aladdin gets the girl and the evil Abanazer is consigned to the cave for the next thousand years. All’s right with the world.
‘Nice’ in this case does not mean ‘wet and drippy’ – they’re both pretty feisty characters, the kind of independent women you’d like your daughters to grow up to be. Parents Nathan and Holly thought it “incredible” and well worth the trip. Holly said she laughed and cried all the way through.
The boys, Max and Louis, admittedly a bit older, were more taken with the evil Abanazer. They thought his evil laugh was hilariously funny and the best bit was when Aladdin’s dad Dave Twankey could not get his name right (who? Half a lager? ‘Ave a banana?). They thought the whole thing was very funny and also liked the music.
Image above: Kate Donnachie as the genie
Jasmine – Ellena Vincent, who recently appeared in Hamilton at Victoria Palace – had an amazing voice. Gracie McGonigal did a great job making her professional stage debut as Wishy. Irvine Iqbal, with a long list of theatre and TV credits, was a perfect Abanazer and Stephan Boyce was a very entertaining Twankey.
Qasim Mahmood, in his first major lead professional theatre role, kept them all in order as Aladdin, injecting the performance with energy and enthusiasm.
My favourite was Kate Donnachie as both the genie and the emperor, bringing great originality to both parts and apparently giving up the pretence that the parts were played by different actors as the show went on, the costume changes got quicker and she had to find ever more ludicrous excuses to go off stage – “I’ve left something in the oven”.
Nicely written by Vikki Stone and directed by Abigail Graham, with some witty topical touches. Truly a pantomime that everyone can enjoy.
The production opened to the public on Saturday but the cast are nicely warmed up from doing two weeks of three shows a day to local schools. LB Hammersmith and Fulham does a fantastic thing by offering free tickets to children at state schools in the borough so they all have a chance to experience live theatre.
Image above: Stephan Boyce as Dave Twankey
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