by Trish Cooke music by Robert Hyman.
Theatre Royal Stratford East Gerry Raffles Square E15 1 BN To 16 January 2010.
Runs 2hr 40min One interval.
TICKETS: 020 8534 0310.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 29 December.
High energy if not perfectly-formed.
Stratford East’s regular panto warm-up number “She’ll Be Coming Round the mountain” is led this year by Wishy and Washy. Having two characters fulfilling this name is part of a partially profitable profligacy in the usual, rowdily joyous Theatre Royal pantomime.
Trish Cooke’s scripted a number of the E15 Christmas shows, and it shows: for good in her confidence to make the storyline satisfyingly complex. It’s not just ‘uncle’ Abanazar who goes wrong here. Aladdin strays in grasping riches against warnings he’s had and in relying on these riches to gain the princess who loves him for himself.
Less happily, Cooke seems so ingrained in the theatre’s panto tradition that no-one’s actually tried to restrain her. The show’s too long for its own good. A fragmentary first half fails to drive the story sufficiently forward, leaving too much to pick up after the interval. And two audience involvement sections?
Especially when the second (for eager children rather than embarrassed adult) actually had to turn one enthusiast away from the stage while leaving others unacknowledged (the keenest hand I saw shoot up hadn’t a chance, being seated mid-row half-way back in the stalls. Hint for young superstars: the front and sides tend to get picked most, because that’s where you’re most noticeable).
Again, the phallic double entendres wilt feebly, despite attempts to inject them with ironic knowingness, with Abenazar decrying their use on a show for innocent young children. If they are innocent, they’re likely to be left puzzled. And if they’re not, they’ll have heard just as feeble in playgrounds or streets (where, judging by the keen young dance volunteers, there’s a lot more artistic and lively going on these days).
But there’s good fun to be had from Derek Elroy’s busty Caribbean Twanky, Peter Straker’s strong-singing Genie of the Lamp, a slave with a mind of his own and words of caution for Aladdin, and Michael Bertenshaw’s Abenazar, underplaying meticulously with contemptuously hostile cool.
And you’ll hardly notice the black surrounds when Jenny Tiramani’s colourful set-pieces – multi-use two-tier truck included – are splashed by Mark Doubleday’s vivid lighting.
Wishy: Chloe Allen.
Abanazar: Michael Bertenshaw.
Ma Twanky: Derek Elroy.
Aladdin: Darren Kuppan.
Washy: Alton Letto.
Princess: Deeivya Meir.
Slave olf the Ring: Toni Palmer.
Sultan: Angelo Paragoso.
Royal Skivvy: Sharoma Sassoon.
Genie if the Lamp: Peter Straker.
Ensemble: Holly Dempsey, Danai Mavunga.
Director: Kerry Michael.
Designer: Jenny Tiramani.
Lighting: Mark Doubleday.
Sound: John Leonard.
Musical Director: Sean Green.
Choreographer: Omar Okai.
Costume: Kristen Dempsey.
Ilusionist: Paul Kieve.
Digital Animator: Jasbeer Kootbally.
Fight director: Bret Yount.
Associate director: Matthew Xia.
Associate illusionist: Darren Lang.
Assistant director: Antonio Ferrara.