Review: Aladdin rocks as panto returns to Colchester

Mercury theatre

Aladdin and Princess Jasmine at the Mercury Theatre, Colchester - Credit: Mercury Theatre

'I think that was the best we panto we have ever seen,' said my husband as we exited the Mercury Theatre on Saturday evening accompanied by two very happy girls.

And for once I agreed with him. There was no let up throughout the performance, the energy of the cast was relentless - I am pretty sure the script was completely cast aside in some scenes as they let their theatrical talents run wild.

Mercury stalwart Antony Stuart-Hicks was back as Widow Twankey and the dame has a reputation for being close to the mark with his double entendres but this time he went even further, leaving my 13-year-old wide eyed with bemusement while her sister, four, innocently laughed along.

He really was the star of the night - he becomes completely absorbed in his role and feeds off the audience reaction. 

The good natured Will, sat front row, stage right, took the brunt of this - he played right into Stuart-Hicks' hands and forgot his cue multiple times. He was roasted for it, the audience lapping it up while the dame berated him, and Will graciously played the fool to help the story along. What a hero that man is.

At one stage, the dame passed out but Stuart-Hicks was enjoying himself so much we could see his body shaking with laughter. This just added to the fun for us, we were not only laughing at the cast but also laughing with them.

The traditional mystical tale of Aladdin was given a rock 'n' roll makeover for this production, written by Andrew Pollard and directed by Ryan McBryde, and the soundtrack made the show.

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It was upbeat, refreshing and energetic, and we were all rocking away in our seats while James Hameed, playing the title role, belted out some classic rock tunes.

Antony Stuart-Hicks abd Dale Superville in last year's performance of Cinderella. This year Antony p

Antony Stuart-Hicks and Dale Superville return to The Mercury for Aladdin this year - Credit: Pamela Raith

His voice would not be out of place in a West End performance of We Will Rock You, such was the power. He and Danielle Kassarate, playing Princess Jasmine, harmonised beautifully in a rock medley played out before the interval. It gave us all the feel good factor, exactly what we need right now.

For my youngest, the highlight was Aladdin's flight around the auditorium on a guitar - the creative team clearly decided a magic carpet was old hat. 

Mercury theatre

Aladdin and Princess Jasmine at the Mercury Theatre, Colchester - Credit: Mercury Theatre

Also worthy of a mention was Dale Superville who had the unusual role of Humphrey the Camel. He was entertaining, took his characterisation of the camel extremely seriously and had the best line of the night when he mentioned his toes - our eldest chuckled away and it took me a good few seconds to register. Exactly the kind of one-liner pantos are famous for.


Cast of Aladdin rock n roll panto on stage - Credit: Mercury Theatre

As Stuart-Hicks confessed after the final curtain, these stars have missed performing, struggled through lockdown and were clearly just delighted to be back doing what they love - and we too were delighted to be back enjoying the pre-Christmas tradition.

I had no idea how much I had missed live performance until the show started and I turned to see the reaction from my girls. The eldest has seen countless pantos and had proclaimed she had outgrown out of our family trip - we dragged her along anyway - and it was refreshing seeing her laugh, smile and join in (and not look at her phone for a good three hours).

The youngest saw her first panto at just six months old but has no memory of our theatre trips thanks to lockdown. She was stood up, clapping along and attempting to join in the pre-wedding group song, absolutely lost in the moment. Upon leaving she asked if we could go to the theatre again, and I was thankfully able to tell her we have tickets for The Jolly Christmas Postman at the venue in the week before Christmas. 

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