Review: Aladdin. Nottingham Arts Theatre.

How often do you get a theatre company out on the streets after every performance doing a meet and greet photo opportunity with their thrilled audience after every single performance? This reviewer would say “Practically never.” Yet this amateur Nottingham based company do this very thing in their pantomimes year after year. And, apart from the exceptionally good quality of their action packed shows, this is what this company actually enjoy committing themselves to year upon year without hesitation. Why rush off for your bus when you can meet Aladdin, Wishy Washy and Widow Twanky and the cast on the wet streets of Nottingham? It’s magical!

And perhaps this, aprés Panto commitment, to the audience and the genuine, proper story-telling fun and sparkle of their shows is what draws back their audiences year on year. Everything is exceptionally good fun and great family value. Being of very talented amateur stock they don’t have to laud themselves as being ex Corrie, ex Eastenders, ex Emmerdale actors just damned fine committed performers that give their very best and an awful lot more.

Writer, director and co-producer Amanda Hall’s scripts and direction are second to none and the cast clearly enjoy playing them and engaging with the audience 200% at the Nottingham Arts Theatre. What we get here is a traditional pantomime with none of the corporate nonsense and flimsy story construction of the some of the professional offerings that rely on names for their audience draw throughout the country.

This year’s show is musically directed by top musical director Sam Griffiths. Light and sound are by Rob Ketteridge and Oliver Read respectively. Aladdin features a pleasant mix of musical theatre and popular songs which this audience are very enthusiastically clapping along to. Maybe the new comfortable seats at the Nottingham Arts Theatre have given the audience plenty of reasons to be extra cheerful.

Additional help is offered in co-production with Matthew Wesson on script, Chris Brawn on set design and Mike Pearson on production. Amanda Hall’s version of Aladdin is topical, fresh and fun with deliberate groan worthy jokes and puns (we are sure this is the case – oh yes we are!). The costumes for this production are gorgeous.

Like a rich and spicy Christmas pudding the cast are a well seasoned mix of old hands and newbies all put into the big juicy bowl of panto lusciousness with the bright cherry of the super likeable panto Dame (Matt Wesson as Widow Twankey) plonked right on top. Funny – doesn’t come anywhere near his lovely appeal. He is a natural. Wesson just oozes panto Dame so much it is a shock to see him out of his frocks!

If you are looking for the perfect fun foil in the name of Aladdin’s daft brother Wishee Washee then Patrick McChrystal is your guy. His interactions with the audience are as natural as breathing. A rare skill that McChrystal has in a abundance and why he is such a popular actor with The People’s Theatre Company.

Every centimetre the plucky principal boy, Danielle Hall excels as the boy Aladdin himself and her performance clearly shows she is enjoying every millisecond on stage. Her confidence in the role is more than evident. Those new to the story of Aladdin (yes boys and girls, they do exist) are engaged throughout in Aladdin’s quest to come up with an in-Genie-us plan to thwart the evil Abanazar. “Boooo!” Danielle Hall also choreographs the show and the dancing is yet another highlight of a top local show.

Every panto needs a baddie to boo and Cliff Hart is the perfect Mr Nasty i.e Abanazar. We have never heard the audience boo so loud and laugh with delight at doing so. Hart really plays with the role to perfection but not so evil that he runs the risk of terrifying the small kids in the audience. Or even the trembling parents!

This year’s Aladdin includes other super performances from Mike Pearson (Genie of The Lamp), Mike Newbold (Emperor Mei), Stacy Ireson (So Shi) and Lauren Stephenson (Princess Jasmine). We adore the comedy of the daft police officers Yin and Yang (Joseph Smith and Laura Ellis) and bringing up the rear – so to speak – is the tremendous talent of Lizzie Fenner as The Spirit of The Ring.

The audience today certainly seem to be lapping up this very high quality fine-voiced and chock full of energy amateur pantomime. Doubtless Aladdin will continue to thoroughly entertain its keen Nottingham audiences until Sunday 15th December. As the poster says it is truly ‘Everything You Could Wish For In A Pantomime.’  Book now and don’t be disappointed.

Photos by Cassie Hall.

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