REVIEW: Aladdin @ Loughborough Town Hall- a proper jewel of a show!

Aladdin at Loughborough Town Hall
Aladdin at Loughborough Town Hall

Review: Lizz Brain

If there’s one good thing to come out of Covid’s impact on theatre and the arts, it’s surely the breathing space to start thinking how to refresh this most traditional of festive activities.

We’re not talking wholesale change – I’d be first in the queue to moan if we dispensed with “it’s behind you” ghost scenes, a bit of ultra-violet action and good old-fashioned slapstick with a proper pantomime Dame.

But Loughborough Town Hall and Little Wolf Entertainment have managed to retain the best family traditions whilst adding in enough modernity to enable this to make sense to the youngsters and keep older ones from being bored in a world of games consoles, social media and YouTube.

Therefore our hero Aladdin, struggling to find work, has ended up a delivery driver working for Fed Ex and UPS (“we’re the fed-ups”, but dreams of being a social media influencer and snaps pics for his Insta account.

There are references to the pandemic (“it’s a coronavirus joke – takes two weeks to see if you get it”), the Genie of the Ring is called Siri, Alexa is called upon, although my favourite gag was still poor Widow Twankey explaining how her husband drowned in fabric softener – at least I know he died in comfort.

This is a show that’s quick on laughs, sumptuous on the eye and pacy on story. There’s technical oomph with an impressive flying carpet which brings Aladdin out over the heads of the front rows (and no clue from row H as to where the presumed hydraulics were hiding!), a ginormous elephant, a neat little quiz to ensure the good guys win, and some cleverly adapted pop songs to ensure the lyrics are relevant to the plot.

Kristian Cunningham is a likeable Aladdin who clearly enjoys his rapport with the audience, and Ella-Jane Thomas works treble hard as Genie of the Lamp, Siri of the Ring and a cleverly named PC Brigade, with fast changes, even faster dialogue and strong comic timing.

But it’s James Peake’s Twankey who steals the show, a loveable Dame who plays the character and story brilliantly without over-egging the “man dressed as a woman” element. He keeps the show going at speed and never allows it to drag (no pun intended). Simon Kingsley’s Abanazar also deserves a nod for strong vocals, wonderful disdain and a great sneer.

Well done Loughborough – festive family fun for which it was was worth braving the snow – a proper jewel of a show!

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