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26th November 2016 at Nottingham Playhouse for the Nottingham Post

It would seem that the saying ‘things get better with age’ is true when it comes to the pantomime at Nottingham Playhouse. Kenneth Alan Taylor has knocked out another smasher this year with his production of Aladdin and, judging by the audience reaction, this is his best yet.

 

We all know the story of Aladdin. Boy meets girl, they fall in love, boy gets locked in a cave by an evil man, boy rubs a lamp and is released by the genie. Two hours later, they all live happily ever after. No wicked stepmother or handsome prince, this story is different to the usual Christmas fairytale.

John Elkington returns as the ukulele playing Widow Twankey and is quite obviously a firm favourite amongst the Playhouse faithful. Rocking a series of outlandish outfits, including a teapot, he is once again superb, interacting with the audience and highlighting that family feeling found at this theatre, especially at this time of year.

Pantomime regular Rebecca Little plays two characters this year, with her usual gusto and comedic skill. Initially appearing as WPC Pong and then as the Slave of the Ring, she is the ideal foil to John Elkington. Also retreading the boards are the lovely Danielle Corlass as Aladdin, Kevin McGowan as evil Abanazar and Jasmine White as Princess Jasmine. Although Anthony Hoggard is sadly missing from this year’s line-up, newbies Nathan Elwick and Darren Southworth are welcome additions.

The show starts off at a cracking pace, with a song and dance routine from the Disney film Aladdin. We are then introduced to Wishee Washee, played by canny lad Nathan Elwick, whose real-life Geordie roots are cleverly intertwined into the story, with plenty of Ha’Way’s and references to his accent, which are bound to increase as the weeks go by.

Not received quite so well was The Empress of China, who the audience found slightly confusing. Not sure if he was good or evil, poor Darren Southworth, who consistently looked like a bejewelled lizard, was actually booed when he first appeared on the stage but soon redeemed himself with an excellent performance

Irene-Myrtle Forrester deserves special mention. Playing joint roles of WPC Ping and the slightly hypochondriac Genie of the Lamp, Forrester is sassy, funny and has a belter of a voice. In fact, all of the show’s musical numbers seem to have been ramped up a notch this year, with the cast’s voices gelling perfectly and, ideally chosen to encourage audience participation, of which there was plenty.

The second half began with a very clever, but initially rather bemusing, fluorescent trip amongst the planets, the point of which became clear on the arrival of the magic carpet. As usual at the Playhouse, the scenery and the props are clever but the show is more about the cast and story, so don’t expect an evening of pyrotechnics and wildly expensive trickery. Who needs that when you’ve got dancing rabbits anyway?

With the usual local jokes about Beeston and Mansfield, the show dashes between street markets, caves and palaces, with boatloads of catchy songs and nods to current events – there’s even a piece dedicated to a current X-Factor contestant (no spoiler), which delighted the audience and had them shouting for a number of encores.

One of the highlights of the evening was the Egyptian scene, where Nathan Elwick really stole the show, with his moustache and his very short costume. To everyone’s amusement, we were then treated to a hilarious rendition of the Dance of the 7 Veils by Widow Twankee, followed by the Sand Dance by Wishee Washee and The Empress. We won’t forget the sight of those legs for a while!

Once again, Nottingham Playhouse has produced a show to be proud of, with a very talented cast, who certainly did justice to the story of Aladdin.