Disclosure: We were invited to see this show for the purpose of this post however all opinions are my own.
It’s panto season at the theatre and we love to get in as many panto stage experiences with the children as possible! We were fortunate enough to be invited to The Anvil in Basingstoke to see this years show, the classic tale of Aladdin. Starring familiar faces such as Mark Rhodes (Cbeebies) as Aladdin and Holby City’s Mark Moraghan as the evil Abanazar, we knew we were in for a treat!
Anvil Arts have chosen to transport the tale of Aladdin back to its original Chinese roots. The programme explains this setting and says that it’s a magical, timeless tale that can be told anywhere. It also focuses on characters like Widow Twankey and Wishee Washee who you won’t see on the big screen but who are a very much loved part of the panto version.
The show opens with an introduction by The Spirit of the Ring, played by Jennifer Harding. She acts as the narrator for the most part but she also gets to showcase her fantastic voice with some amazing songs. We also briefly meet the Genie (Scott Davies) and the dastardly Abanazar, who lets us into his vision for world domination with a magical lamp that he has heard of. The Spirit of the Ring is his servant as he owns the ring she lives in, kind of like a less powerful genie. She’s not a baddie though, just a slave to the owner of the ring.
Soon we meet Aladdin, his brother Wishee-Washee (played by Chris Pizzey, who is also the show’s director!) and their Mother, the pantomime dame Widow Twankey, played by Nic Gibney, and the cast of villagers including PC Pong, played by Charlie Guest. The superb cast is completed by Ashleigh Mackness as Princess Jasmine.
PC Pong was one of our favourite characters and his invisible car kept us all entertained. It was a running theme through the show that we really enjoyed each time it popped up – especially seeing the number of people that could fit into the invisible car. It really did show that anything is possible thanks to your imagination!
With great musical numbers and classic gags coming thick and fast, the story has a good pace and some great special effects, including giant flames and an awesome flying carpet sequence. The sets are beautifully designed and each transition is timed with great music from the pit band and so many songs featuring the cast. It was well choreographed with beautiful costumes and fantastic songs.
The show is one laugh after the next with a hilarious scene in the Chinese laundry that gets very wet, bubbly and slippery! The kids were besides themselves with laughter and Aladdin really delivers throughout the entire show, sticking to tried and tested pantomime traditions that are sure to please all ages. We all really loved the unexpected Star Wars references – which had Little Man on the edge of his seat with excitement!
Widow Twankey was a fantastic pantomime dame and one that we all really loved. Unlike other pantomimes, and dames, this one wasn’t as full of innuendo as we are used to and it was nice being able to sit through a show and not worry about the jokes the children are hearing! Aladdin was unoffensive, fun, entertaining and just a really great show.
Anvil Arts have successfully made the story of Aladdin feel fresh and new by transporting it to an unfamiliar setting, but with the classic story at its heart of the performance it’s very appealing and will keep the whole family entertained over the festive period. You can find out the full list of Aladdin show times and book tickets over on their box office website – it runs until 5th January.