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Aladdin (Guildford, Yvonne Arnaud Theatre)

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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Once again the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre has managed to create a good-old fashioned, family treat of a panto. This year sees it take on the mystical Aladdin with plenty of sparkles, heart and custard pies.

In the title role Emma Thornett is thigh-slappingly up-beat with elastic facial expressions and a clear voice. Although his/her mother Widow Twankey, played by Royce Mills, lacks the bite and barb of a modern pantomime Dame, she is refreshingly warm, bumblely and very Surrey, as if a local vicar’s wife had decided to set up a laundry in China. Joe Allen and Jamie Brook provide some fantastic slapstick comedy as Wishee Washee & PC Pongo, while local radio presenter Peter Gordon proves he’s game for a laugh, while still keeping the show in the Guildford style.

As a double act Susie Blake and Kit Hesketh Harvey steal so many scenes all that is missing is a bag with swag written on it. Playing the genie as a cross between Mrs Potts and Barbara Windsor, Blake is cheeky with a twinkle in her eye, while Hesketh Harvey is devilishly wicked as the scheming Abanazar.

Jamie Attle’s stunning costumes glitter and gleam under Josh Harris’s Quality Street coloured lighting to create a visual feast. The set, provided by Imagine Theatre and designed by Rob Wells, packs a comic book punch and scene such as the cave and the magic carpet are delightfully full of magic.

This is a very local pantomime and, unlike some larger shows, it doesn’t feel as if the local gags have been shoe-horned in, rather that this is a big show with an intimate audience. Gerry Tebbutt’s direction keeps the physical comedy pacey and the kids screaming with laughter and excitement at One Direction sing-alongs and “He’s behind you” shouting matches. Some adults may miss the double-entendres and sauciness that audiences have come to expect, but what it lacks in campness this show makes up for in heart.

Full of good, clean fun, Aladdin will have you singing, laughing and shouting out until you feel like a school kid again.


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