The Haymarket and The Anvil - Aladdin
12th December 2013 to 5th January 2014.
Review from the British Theatre Guide.
The panto season at the Anvil theatre in Basingstoke is an oriental feast of Peking magic as their production takes to the stage, “in spite of the one-way system.”
Eager children were having fun with flashing cutlasses or rings and magical spinners and the excitement before the start was palpable.
Ian Good directs this colourful production with assurance and also plays the dame Widow Twankey with an outrageous variety of frocks and some dreadful one-liners that made you groan.
This is a traditional version of the story that has all the right panto ingredients. There is lots of audience participation, a rather tame laundry scene—I missed the slosh—but a wonderful flying sequence with clever projection as Aladdin skims the rooftops of Peking and travels through the desert and oceans to rescue his princess.
The hilarious version of the Twelve Days of Christmas had the cast and audience in fits of laughter that lifted the rather staid first act.
There is the traditional ghost sketch sung to She’ll Be Coming Round the Mountain and loads of help from some children from the audience for the song sheet in this case One Finger One Thumb Keep Moving.
Colin Baker of Doctor Who fame is both an imposing and impressive Abanazar with a powerful thunderous voice, who is convinced that he is ”the most powerful magician on earth.”
There are oodles of references to the television series with an appearance of the Daleks and even the famous Tardis, and Baker just loves his “boos”.
Keeping the proceeding whizzing along is Derek Morgan as the rather simple Wishee Washee with his catchphrase, “Yoh kids” to which they loudly reply, “Yoh Wishee” as we all agree to be in his gang.
He has good empathy with the audience but we also have to look after his pet dog Tiddles—and I’m not going to tell how he got his name but it had the audience in giggles.
Chris Carswell is a charming, daredevil Aladdin who has fallen in love Princess Jasmine, the delightful Rebecca Marks, and both have beautiful singing voices.
Of course Aladdin is tricked by Abanazar to help him find the magic lamp and ends up trapped in the dark, dismal cave but he is helped by the rather hip Slave of the Ring with attitude, the splendid Carrie Rawlings.
Mark James, making his panto debut as the hapless PC Pong, provides much humour and some clever magic tricks.
As the Emperor, Wesley Waring is a whimsical character and caused much hilarity when his moustache started to fall off, which led to some superb improvisation from members of the cast.
There is also good support from Neil Kitchin-Wilson as the lithe Genie of the Lamp.
With some slick choreography by Sarah Louise Day enthusiastically performed by a large ensemble augmented by a juvenile chorus from local dance academies, this is a production that was thoroughly enjoyed by the audience and an ideal start to the festive season.
Review from the Newbury Weekly News.
The Good Widow Twankey
Jokes as corny as ever… but that's why we love panto
Aladdin, at The Anvil, Basingstoke, until January 5
Putting a fresh slant on traditional pantomime isn't easy, and few manage to achieve it, but Ian Good succeeded with The Anvil production of Aladdin this year.
Good has 30 years of experience in panto and he put it all to good use here, appearing as Widow Twankey and directing the entire production. It began with a well-designed and brightly-lit set, always a good start and continued with lively singing and dancing from Carrie Rawlings and the children from the North Hampshire Dance Academy and the Basingstoke Academy of Dancing.
Choreographer Sarah Louise Day presented some striking visuals throughout and there were lively performances from Chris Carswell as Aladdin, Derek Moran as Wishee Washee and Rebecca Marks as Princess Jasmine. Mark James made a good PC Pong and Wesley Waring was an effective Emperor of China. Colin Baker, prominent and exotically attired in colourful robes, made a larger-than-life Abanazar.
So where were the fresh touches? First-up was a neat variation on the set pieces with Twankey conducting an amusing Twelve Days of Christmas, which included items like football shirts, rubber chickens, toilet rolls which were repeatedly sent flying out to the audience and returned, and a bra 'meant to hold three’!
The laundry sequence offered fresh set-pieces, too, with the Widow turning the mangle handle and squeezing Wishee Washee through it and back out much thinner than he went in.
As for the jokes, a few were new but just as corny as ever. "What is that?" "A tissue." "Bless you." "Thank you."
And how about names of items being like the places they came from? Hats from Hatfield, collars from Colorado and yes, I'm afraid so, knickers from Nicaragua!
There was even a variation of the 'I saw a ghost' routine, which worked well. And, of course, Abanazar Baker had to be dispatched at the end in a Tardis!
This was a smooth, slick and very well-paced production with much of the comedy initiated by Ian Good and picked up enthusiastically by the cast.
Oh yes… and it's suitable for all ages if you are yet to go to a panto.
There is a review from The Stage ("a traditional show full of laughter, lively choreography, sparkling costumes, foot-tapping tunes, easy recognisable characters and time-honoured gags. It’s all predictable but ideal panto fare").