Review: Aladdin at Mercury Theatre, Colchester, until January 10

The cast of Aladdin at the Mercury Theatre in Colchester

The cast of Aladdin at the Mercury Theatre in Colchester - Credit: Archant

They don’t come much nearer the perfect Christmas panto than this one. It ticks all the boxes in the traditional panto genre and then stirs in quite a few special extras. And much of this added magic is in the writing.

The Mercury’s artistic director, Daniel Buckroyd, has got together with the aptly-named top Christmas show author, Fine Time Fontayne, to turn out an absolute rip-snorter. The famous story of Aladdin and his wonderful lamp is all adventurously there but it is enriched by endless rapid-fire jokes. The gags and puns keep tumbling over each other in a cascade of laughs for all ages.

Add in a some bold Peking-Arabian sets, really gorgeous costumes and a magic carpet that not only soars into the blue carrying Aladdin to victory but comes out to take a cheeky peek at the audience and you have all the hallmarks of success on one stage.

Much of the panto’s winning formula is down to the choice of players and this cast could hardly be bettered. We know, for instance, from the moment that Ignatius Anthony first opens his mouth as Abanazar, that he is going to be a great boo-maker. His up-market, laconic, beastly attitude arouses the fiercest youthful reactions but, like the rest of the show, has the audience hooting with laughter.

Antony Stuart-Hicks has a lot of fun as Widow Twanky, especially when “she” latches on to a late arrival in the front row called Barry and savages him with saucy remarks throughout the whole show. The Twanky outfits are a dreamboat of bad-taste excess, especially the final one with its pagoda-like hat with layers reaching into the heavens.

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The super Dale Superville is back as Wishee Washee, full of acrobatic energy, excellent timing and a bundle of laughs in his own right. Glenn Adamson’s Aladdin and Sarah Moss’s Princess Jasmine are nicely matched and sing beautifully. But then, the singing and dancing from the whole cast is also first-class.

The thing that gives this happy extravaganza its extra cache is the mix of traditional elements into the ancient story – the slapstick scene in the laundry, the meeting with the man-eating yeti on the mountain, the lowered song-sheet and the audience in a competition to make the most noise.

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The choice of music all through is clever and apt, even including a nod to Gilbert and Sullivan’s Three Little Maids From School, and helps to make this a panto not to be missed.

David Henshall

See more on the pantos being staged across East Anglia this Christmas here

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