A bigger and glitzier ‘Aladdin’

2007-11-29 00:00

STEVEN Stead and Greg King of KickstArt have always said their love of theatre is rooted in the family pantomimes of their childhoods, staged in those days in the Alhambra and the Playhouse in Durban. For four years, with Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty and now Aladdin, they have set out to woo a new generation of theatre lovers in the same way, and to entrance an existing one.

Things have got bigger and glitzier as the pantomime has moved from the Kwasuka to the Sneddon and now, once again, to the Playhouse, but the essential fun and heart that makes panto work is still there, managing not to be overwhelmed by all the bells and whistles of the bigger venue (and flying magic carpets, enormous genies and stunning sets). The smaller visual quirks and jokes — a dog on a lead, Abanazer’s “horse”, obvious slapstick moments and the villain’s final comeuppance from Widow Twankey and Wishee Washee, which is an absolute classic — keep the soul of the pantomime where it should be.

Once again — it seems almost boring to keep saying this after every show in which he is involved — King’s sets are wonderful. Whether the action is in a Peking street, the Emperor’s palace, Aladdin’s bling-filled cave or the Burst Bubble Laundromat, it looks fantastic, and the costumes live up to the sets.

But, ultimately, success is down to the actors and Stead is very well served by his cast. Carol Trench, sadly soon to be lost to the Durban stage, is a delightful, chirpy Aladdin, while Peter Court, taking a break from adult panto to do the real thing this year, scores as Widow Twankey, as over the top as a pantomime dame should be. Last year, Darren King was the dame; this year he is Abanazar and has a great time being villainous and nasty, while Ntando Cele’s Genie of the Ring, arriving in a burst of fireworks, is a lively, feisty immortal. In fact, she almost steals the show.

Bryan Hiles, Frances Currie and Danielle Perlman all do their bit and the songs are well chosen and well performed. There is plenty to amuse the adults, lots of audience participation for the kids (and grown-ups) and even if you are finding festive spirit a bit hard to access right now, this will give you a lift. My only quibble would be the sound on opening night — too loud and a bit harsh — but it should be easy enough to sort out. So round up all the kids you know and if you don’t know any, just take youself and relive the magic of childhood on your own account.

Panto: time and place

Aladdin runs at the Playhouse Drama Theatre until December 30. Shows are at 2.30 pm Tuesday to Saturday, 7 pm Friday and Saturday and 3 pm on Sunday. Tickets are R80 for adults and R65 for children. Book through Computicket.

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