Ben Crocker
Gala Theatre, Durham
Gala Theatre, Durham

The Gala Theatre, Durham brings back panto regulars Neil Armstrong (Abanazar) and Paul Hartley (Wishee Washee) in Aladdin, who know how to deliver exactly what the local audiences want and are obviously appreciated.

Also in the cast is Viktoria Kay as PC Ping Pong (plus an uncredited role) and it has to be said she is the life blood of the show. Her mannerisms and whole performance are excellent, making the over-long show watchable when she is on stage.

At two hours forty minutes, the panto is just too long and the noise level and trips to the toilet by children highlight this. A good thirty minutes could be cut from the production, which would be easy to do. By cutting few surplus songs and shortening of over-long scenes, the pace would pick up and the material in the book by Ben Crocker would work much better, rather than be stretched.

To be fair the cast do what they can with Kay, Armstrong and Hartley coming out best. But less would certainly be more in this production.

Things are not helped by a lack of chemistry between Christina Andrew (Princess Jasmine) and Matt McGoldrick (Aladdin) which, as they are the central characters, is a shame as McGoldrick otherwise impresses as Aladdin. But Robert Hudson appears to be totally lost as The Emperor, while Chris Foley excels as Nobby the Panda (also the Genie Puppeteer) as he hits a chord with adults and children alike.

Chris Connel (Widow Twankey) connects with the audience and has the best lines but his Dame bizarrely has a 5 o’clock shadow, wears the same boots and tights throughout, and has the worst looking costumes and wigs for a Dame I have ever seen in pantoland.

Even taking into account the restrictions of the Gala Theatre, there is so much more that could be done with the panto by director Gareth Tudor Price. But on the plus side there is a lot of audience interaction, with adults and children ready to join in from the start.

Reviewer: John Dixon

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