Question: what do you give a jewel of a theatre for Christmas? Answer: a bijou production of Aladdin.
It's a Daniel O'Brien (aka Colin Blumenau) script which, in Tim Welton's production, compensates for a small cast and children's chorus with some inventive twists to the story – not to mention an excellent Keystone Kops filmed routine.
Over the past couple of years, the Principal Boy has seemed to become something of an endangered species. Not in Bury St Edmunds, for Aladdin is played by Jessica Spalis, who not only has a fine acrobatic routine as the innocent hero descends into the cave in search of the magic lamp but a good sense of characterisation.
The dastardly Abanazar is Daniel Chittenden, a full-throated villain revelling in his green spotlight and the audience's vociferous reaction to his evil plans. He has a much put-upon sidekick Hanky (Patrick Marlowe), who switches costume numerous times in the course of the performance to double as the chamberlain Panky.
Feisty and strong-voiced Princess Jasmine (Roxanne Palmer) has an Empress Mother in this version, with Hannah Summers a dead ringer in costume and headgear for T'zu-hsi (Cixi). Summers, in another of the production's interesting doubling of roles, is also the imprisoned Genie of the Lamp – there's no ring to further spook the audience in this version.
James Nickerson is Widow Twankey, slightly too much on the gabble and a little short on cuddliness. Chris Coxon has the young audience on his side as Wishee Washee from his first appearance. Phil Oostelow is the musical director and the designer is Nigel Hook.
Ashley Stafford, Sam Hilton, Tim Wragg and Ben Guy were responsible for the filmed sequence I mentioned. Great fun for all ages.