The familiar eastern adventure is here transposed to the mythical and saucy province of Hao Hung, where Clapham commoners Aladdin (Greg Airey), Widow Twankey (Josh Rochford) and Wishy Washy (Lucy Gill) the botoxed monkey have set up shop, with a stolen lamp in tail.
Power-hungry Cockney villain Abanazer (Matthew Baldwin) lusts for the lamp's magic. And with no more need for convincing motivation than that we are launched into another round of festive theatre, set to the infallible formula of Christmas pantomime, which Above The Stag has been tailoring to adult audiences for the past three years.
Ensuing struggles for the lamp's genie powers thrust the protagonists into all manner of compromising positions. There's opportunity aplenty to send boos and hisses Abanazer 's way, and an obligatory spattering of people who need to know who's behind them. The script is sharp and topical, if a little on the lengthy side, and gives everyone something genuinely funny to say. The uniquely transgressive art of panto-writing lets some borderline racist stuff out of the bag, but tongues are positioned firmly enough in cheeks for them to get away with it.
Despite technical disaster rearing its head, the show duly goes on, buoyed by a tide of mulled wine, dodgy props and enthusiasm. Abanazer's sleazy advances are particularly memorable highlights, and Widow Twankey shines as the lascivious mature lady. So, essentially, the play is at it's best when it's flauntingly sexual - and fortunately this is most of the time. Along with the other companionable drunks who seem to comprise the Landor Theatre's audience, I was sucked convincingly into the bawdy, gaudy and effervescent world of Hao Hung. I'm also proud to report that front row seats bring with them an additional level of intimacy with the esteemed performers, whose talents for ad lib, and willingness to brave physical contact, are substantial.
It's a low-rent setup and the musical numbers aren't exactly pitch perfect, but that's absolutely not what panto should be about. This show goes out of its way to get everyone involved - as if we needed any encouragement - in bringing British theatre's greatest tradition to life once more this festive season. And surely that's better than a big budget or a working sound system.
-by Kieran Corcoran