Jim Davidson's Aladdin

Jim Davidson
Mayflower, Southampton
(2003)

A square in old Peking? "Oh no it isn't". In fact if there's more than a hint of Miss Saigon about Jim Davidson's raucous production of Aladdin at Southampton's Mayflower, that's thanks to scenery and even a dancing troupe left behind from the previous show!

That said, and allowing for a level of amplified decibels that even children must find distracting, this truly is a show for the family. Well, would you expect a production with Davidson in the title role to live entirely on Sunday school humour?

Just about all the ingredients are here - not thoroughly mixed yet, to judge by early performances, but promising. Abanazer's lair, the woods, Mrs Twankey's laundry, the cave and the familiar characters, too, though Davidson's Aladdin displaces the traditional, thigh-sporting principal boy.

Wishy Washy, the alias the star might have taken, goes here to, of all things, "Mr Blobby", an intrusive figure in this traditional tale.

Highlight of the evening - no doubt the afternoons as well, is a bellowing performance from the usually soft-spoken "Frost" aide, John Lyons as Abanazer. If you want histrionics, ask a professional!

Lucy Benjamin, is a match for Davidson rather than innocent Princess. but there is a colourful Dame from Roger Kitter and a powerful Emperor from the widely talented Masashi Flijmoto. In between being Chinese Policemen, four gymnasts show off their athleticism, which might have been better exploited in the story!

Yet any criticism, and laments at the apparent absence of live musicians, must be carping when hundreds of children are shouting their heads off at the "evil" villain while their dads enjoy Davidson ad-libs - and mums thank heaven for a bit of peace amid the noise!

"Aladdin" runs at The Mayflower until Sunday, 1 February 2004.

Reviewer: Kevin Catchpole