EFR - Reviews of Aladdin

Aladdin

Mon 15th – Sat 27th August 2011

reviews

Bethany Knibb

at 12:00 on 17th Aug 2011

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Bristol University’s Pantomime Society, who rightly announce in their production blurb that “the joys of pantomime are not just for the youth”, certainly do “Aladdin” justice.

The script, now littered with innuendo, has been reworked by student Peter Bagot into a racy version of the stage pantomime (it is definitely not a children’s show), which has resulted in a truly laugh-out-loud production. Their risqué touches add some zing to “Aladdin” and make it a must-see for anyone who’s a fan of traditional pantomime or, indeed, Aladdin. They do it all to the letter, too – they have an exuberant narrator, a fantastically-cast baddie (who gets booed on and off stage), sweeties thrown out into the audience (a guilty pleasure of mine), a beautiful princess and the pièce de résistance: a man in drag.

The character of Widow Twanky is played by Daniel Evans and is certainly one of the main highlights of this production. Evans sashays across the stage with the skill and comfort of one who is no stranger to this type of role (not sure if I’m impressed or intrigued!) and he has some corking lines. Special credit should also go to Charles Scherer who plays Abanazer who was simply excellent (and also disconcertingly comfortable) in his baddie role. Scherer could not be more perfect for the part – his acting is first class and he pulls off the “disgruntled evil wannabe sultan” and evil laugh with impressive aplomb.

The venue is simple, and little is used for scenery. This is clearly a budget issue and – unfortunately – probably nothing to do with cake (you’ll understand when you see the show). While a few more props would no doubt improve the atmosphere of grandeur that is more typical to panto, the cast do a tremendous job with what they have and the production as a whole is very impressive.

The recent pantomimes I have seen have been at Christmas and in huge venues. With both these elements seemingly against them, ‘Bristol Panto Soc’ use it to their advantage. With pantomimes not “in season” yet, they have spotted a gap in the market (I would urge you not to see any other pantomimes in the Fringe before you see Aladdin) and the small venue allows the possibility of getting audience members up on stage and extra touches like throwing out sweets, which altogether make this a more intimate and enjoyable production.

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Juliet Roe

at 13:50 on 17th Aug 2011

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When the narrator of this panto introduced it as a ‘debauched corruption’ of the original I was a little dubious. Shortly afterwards the villain Abanazer – played by the terrifying Charles Scherer- performed a rendition of ‘The Lion King’s ‘Be Prepared’ and I felt much better. This show, on the whole, managed to blend panto’s sense of silly fun with a nice addition of innuendo, great puns and swearing, making this a great thing to see if you’re nostalgic for panto of your childhood but also enjoy penis jokes.

There were gags that fell flat due to poor delivery, and some of the songs (of which there were many) were a little bit painful both in terms of quality of singing and general acoustic. The Harem wildly fluctuated in funniness, only occasionally getting the delivery right. The panto staples like the Dame (Daniel Evans) and Scherer’s villain were done well and the augmenting traditions like ‘Oh no it isn’t!’ to apply to Jasmine’s giving consent (‘She IS giving the right signals!’, ‘Oh no she isn’t!’ Etc etc) had the audience chortling. The Genie of the Lamp (Gemma Stockbridge) and Aladdin (Lottie Kruber) also didn’t always have good timing. As is usually the case with shows like this, it was the supporting roles that stole the show; Evans’ Widow Twankey liaised with the audience and seemingly improvised a lot of one-liners such as shouting ‘that was a long fall!’ from offstage after the sound effect missed its cue. Scherer is so terrifying in appearance and stage presence that he could have got away with not having any lines and still contribute a good villain to the piece. The very sexually active Sultan and his wife (Peter Stone and Sarah Holden) were a great double act and unlike the narrator and his ‘cake’ habit their material didn’t wear thin by the end.

Although not a very polished production, the cast and audience were having enough fun for this not to matter. Not quite ‘Aladdin a million’ (I told you they had good puns) but well worth a viewing.

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