There's an oft-quoted theory about panto that it serves an important purpose, bringing youngsters into the theatre for possibly the first time in their lives.
While this is undoubtedly true, it does put significant pressure on the panto concerned to deliver an experience that will leave them wanting to come back again at some point in the future.
This festive offering from producers Qdos provides a perfectly adequate, if workmanlike, example of the genre, but it’s hard to escape the thought that there may not be enough here to draw putative theatre-goers of the future back time and again.
Headlining as Wishee Washee, Bobby Davro gives us Bobby Davro, complete with comedy voices, a snatch of his cabaret turn doing vocal impressions, and some suitably lame double entendres. If you like Bobby Davro… well, you get the picture.
Elsewhere, dancer Brian Fortuna looks pretty and moves well as Aladdin, while Charlotte Bull as supporting genie Scherazade and David O’Mahony as Abanazar have a go at stealing the show. That honour actually falls to Jeffrey Holland, whose Widow Twankey is traditional, boisterous and game for a laugh.
But all the cheap gags and the feeling of some performances running on autopilot can be forgiven thanks to the underlying sense of fun. What’s much, much harder to overlook is the producers’ shameful reliance on pre-recorded backing tracks, rather than a live band.
In going for the money-saving option, they have stripped a huge element of the energy and excitement from the show. And, what’s more, they have robbed those all-important youngsters of a truly magical part of what panto is all about. Oh yes they have.