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Hexagon - Aladdin

10th December 2001 to 6th January 2002.

This is the NWN review.

Exactly what a panto should be

'ALADDIN', at The Hexagon, Reading, until January 6

The Hexagon's pantomime this year is Aladdin starring Nick Weir and Kulvinder Ghir. This is what I call a traditional pantomime. Aladdin was apparently the first pantomime produced in England and since the end of the 18th century the story has been transported to China. This setting gave rise to the most beautiful sets and costumes that sparkled and glittered appropriately for a Christmas production.

The matinee performance was full of primary school children eager and ready for pantomime fun. Matt Stirling as Abanazar ('Have a Banana' as the genie called him) was superb as the villain of the piece. Dressed in green and lit by green lights we had all the theatrical symbolism of evil. His rich voice stirred the children to boo and hiss with relish.

There were some amazing pyrotechnics as genie and slave appeared. Kulvinder Ghir was a wonderfully cheeky Genie. He had the children in stitches every rime he lifted his leg, overbalanced and crashed to the stage. Widow Twanky (Geoffrey Davies) was a pure pantomime dame, no innuendo, just great fun.

The busy bee scene where Ping (Ian Royce), Pong (Howard Coggins) and Widow Twanky take turns to spray water over each other took me back to my childhood.

This was a fast-paced pantomime, which is important for a young audience. Lots of the songs were recognisable and we all bopped along. It cleverly combined modern references with the old. The cast seemed to be enjoying themselves and that communicated to the audience.

Aladdin (Nick Weir) had a superb rapport with the children. This audience knew the story; they shouted wildly when they felt Aladdin needed to rub the ring or the lamp. The only worrying point came with a near riot at the end when the children were determined that Abanazar should die.

The Genie desperately tried to encourage the children to think differently. Finally, regardless of the audience, the cast carried on and put Abanazar in the lamp. This show is well worth seeing, it's visual, funny, traditional and energetic - exactly what a pantomime should be. My children's view? Absolutely brilliant!