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A CurtainUp London London Review

He died when he drank a tin of varnish. He had a lovely glossy finish! . . . . It's not Strindberg, you know!
---- Widow Twankey
Brian Protheroe as Abanazar
(Photo: Robert Day)
It's the pantomime season and Greenwich Theatre's excellent offering this year is their own production under Artistic Director Fiona Laird. Greenwich Theatre's audience was brimming with children enjoying the traditional Christmas treat and in front of me were the Second Lee Pack of Brownies (Girl Scouts) in uniform and delighted by the show. Aladdin at Greenwich is the second of the pantomimes I've arranged to see this December and I was reflecting on what elements there are in common and which are missing. Gone is the Principal Boy, the leading hero usually played by a girl in high boots and bare thighs. The romantic lead is now a young male, dashing, handsome and liable to set teenage girls' hearts a-flutter. The pantomime horse has evolved into a cuddly creature, in the case of Aladdin, Ping Pong, a giant panda with big eyelashes and a wind problem.

Full of smoke and flashes revealing the Genie of the Lamp (Daniel Robinson) and the Genie of the Ring (Laura Curnick), Greenwich's production is very pleasing visually. Some of the colourful costumes were sourced in the wonderful bazaar in Morocco's Marrakech. The tale Aladdin of course has this curious blend of Eastern promise, set in Peking, Aladdin (Amarjit Bassan) sports a pigtail and a Chinese hat, the love of his life is a Mandarin Emperor's daughter Princess So-Shy (Emma Jay Thomas) and the Grand Vizier (Jonathan Kemp) is more Persian in origin. When in Cairo, courtesy Magic Carpet airlines, where a scary Egyptian Mummy steals a member of the cast, the whole auditorium is filled with children shouting "Behind You!" to the remaining actors. This is seriously involving audience participation. The Crazy Frog music is a masterstroke and really popular with the children.

I loved Liam McKenna's Widow Twankey, younger than your average "dame", he (seemingly) adlibbed his way through the pantomime with fast patter and certainly the best jokes I've heard this season. For plenty of adult humour and quick fire comic lines Greenwich is the pantomime that will please the whole family. There are jokes about the leaning towells of pizza from the launderess Twankey, local references to the much hated Greenwich traffic wardens, and the future Olympics, and the topical, the Empress' (Rosie Ede) Botox injections. She used to be the barmaid at The Crispy Duck before she married the Emperor! Brian Protheroe as the villainous Abanazar stalks the stage in built up platform boots and a gold and black Siberian Cossack outfit, and sings "I'm Evil" to the tune of Peggy Lee's "I'm a woman, W-O-M-A-N". Amarjit Bassan as Aladdin is full of energy in the exciting chases and sings sweetly with the romantic interest Princess So-Shy (Emma Jay Thomas) and all ends happily with a white wedding scene. Fiona Laird has taken the traditional pantomime, rewritten by Andrew Pollard in witty rhyming couplets and cleverly produced a holiday show that will please adults and children alike.

For more about this season's pantomines, see our 2005 Holiday show Feature

Written by Andrew Pollard
Directed by Fiona Laird

Starring: Brian Protheroe, Liam McKenna
With: Amarjit Bassan, Laura Curnick, Tony Dinh Le, Rosie Ede, Jonathan Kemp, Donna Marsh, Daniel Robinson, Emma Jay Thomas
Designer: Ralph Oswick
Lighting Designer: Neil Fulcher
Sound Designer: Colin Compost
Choreographer: Janine Davies
Musical Director: Alexander Rudd
Costume Maker: Olive Pike
Greenwich Theatre Production in association with the Natural Theatre Company
Running time: Two hours 10 minutes with one interval
Box Office: 020 8858 7755
Booking until 7th January 2006
Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge based on 9th December 2005 performance at Greenwich Theatre, Crooms Hill, London SE10 (Rail/DLR: Greenwich/ Cutty Sark)
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