Review: Aladdin (Lyric Hammersmith)
There's a heinous baddie in the Lyric Hammersmith's panto, which kicks off this year's Christmas season
Brace yourself to boo, boys and girls. If the Lyric Hammersmith's offering is anything to go by, 2016 is set to be the year of the baddie. The last 12 months have delivered a bumper crop of villainy and Hammersmith's is so heinous they've named her five times: Nigel David Donald Theresa Boris Abanazer.
Thankfully, in comedian Vikki Stone, West London has found itself a proper panto superstar; a rival, at last, to Hackney's great dame Clive Rowe. Her baddie is the absolute business – so camply malevolent that she has to calm her own boos before the show can continue.
Stone turns Abanazer into a gleeful anarchist: a gurning green goblin with a purple Mohawk whose signature tune is The Prodigy's rasping rave-rant "Firestarter". She runs amok as she pleases, interrupting scenes and invading the auditorium, even stopping the show when it doesn't go to her plan. "Get my agent," she strops on being upstaged. Her cackle goes off like a backfiring exhaust, and she tantrums like a toddler – a perfect marriage of the loathsome and the ludicrous.
It's fitting that the Lyric's panto should be defined by its villain. After eight years, it has well and truly found its own tone, and its spirit is one of mischief and mayhem – almost to the point where pandemonium overrides the pantomime. Director Ellen McDougall, returning for her second year, taps right into that, upping the tempo with chase sequences and slop routines, while writer Joel Horwood gets a gag-rate to match. With lamps to rub and tumble dryers to perch on, there's more secret smut here than on Keith Vaz's laundry run. The result is a delirious two hours that never lets up – as giddying for grown-ups as for pre-teens bouncing to a barrage of Taylor Swift and Olly Murs.
Despite the freshness – all high-tops and snapchat slang – it feels a smidge out of date and it's short a real raking over of the year just gone; a symptom, perhaps, of a script structured last January. Brexit gets one passing mention and Donald Trump another, but the focus is mostly on old-fashioned austerity. Dale Rapley's Emperor One Per Cent ("It's not subtle") looks like a gold-clad Colonel Gadaffi, while James Doherty's Wishy Washy wears hardship chic: a plastic bag dress at 5p a pop. "We're so poor," she ba-dums, "that we got a Gmail account just to live off the spam."
The message throughout is that money ain't everything. Karl Queensborough's Aladdin blings himself up in a golden tracksuit and orders in a flashy flying carpet, but it's only when he's most truly himself that Allyson Ava-Brown's Jasmine falls for him. She's a strong female protagonist – hurrah for that – who sees through every scam and does the proposing herself. But she's not alone in that. Malinda Parris adds sass and song as the Genie, but its Stone's baddie that makes this one. Who needs boo-boys any more?
Aladdin runs at the Lyric Hammersmith until 7 January.