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Silchester Players - Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves

31st January to 8th February 2014

Review from the Newbury Weekly News.

The Baghadaddy of a pantomime

Silchester Players: Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves, at Silchester Village Hall January 31, February 1, 7 and 8

Despite driving rain, village hall renovations and some opening night gremlins in the sound desk, Silchester Players performed David Swan's Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves with enough enthusiasm and warmth to banish the winter chill.

A colourful chorus opened the show, transporting us back to Old Baghdad and introducing Ali Baba and his family. The part of poor but loveable Ali was in the safe hands of Brian Gillett, whose beaming smile and cheeky glances quickly established the character in the affections of the audience. Mari Fleming was well cast as Fatima Kebab, the cafe owner with unappetising grub and eyes only for Ali, her stage presence developing impressively throughout the performance.

Kevin Belcher's creepy and villainous Kasim quickly got the audience hissing and booing, and he was well-supported by Leanne Qurrey as his ruthless partner Olive, who gets her comeuppance when she ends up in slavery. Kasim's hapless henchmen Bubble and Squeak (Stephen Bibby and Clive Solomons) gave us some great comic moments – the KitKat break in the chase sequence was a nice touch – while Faith Albrecht and Jo Simpson were well in tune and suitably gung ho as young Rhum Baba and Polly Jones, the archaeologist’s daughter.

Jill Gillett and Amanda Albrecht as Vanilla and Delight entertained the male members of the audience with a dazzling bellydance, and special mention goes to two supporting members of the cast – Mel Tucker's dancing camel and Jordan Gunner as the mummy – two very memorable performances.

The enthusiastic junior chorus provided some lively numbers, enhanced by uv light, while Tim Oliver and Kevin Belcher's set added plenty of Eastern promise to the performance. From the Old Bazaar to Ali's mansion and King Pomegranate's tomb full of treasure and curses, the stage design was splendidly bright and eye-catching.

Congratulations to director Tim Oliver and his team for sending the audience home with a smile on their face. Ali Baba is well worth the trip.