REVIEW: Aladdin, the Regis Centre, Bognor, until January 2.
Bognor's company absolutely nail the spirit of panto '“ and were rewarded with exactly the audience they deserved: hundreds of roaring school children ready for the time of their lives.
It was wet, cold and miserable outside, but the cast of Aladdin quickly stoked up all the festive warmth you could ever wish for – double underlining just how vital it is to work with your audience if you want to get pantomime right.
Jamie Bannerman revels in every single boo as Abanazar, the villain of the piece – a terrific performance matched every step of the way by the superlative William Frazer as Wishee Washee, the audience’s best friend.
Frazer simply gushes fun and awful jokes. Even more importantly, he knows exactly how to communicate with his young audience. He and they fire off each other perfectly.
In truth, the first half is maybe ten minutes too long for some young bladders; less would be more. But for energy and colour and sheer friendliness, Bognor’s Aladdin is unbeatable this Christmas.
Christopher Marlowe is everything a dame should be, and Vicky Edwards is mumsy, fun and welcoming as the Slave of the Ring.
Alan Mirren and Jamie Lemetti offer endless slapstick – and Duncan Hendry more or less keeps a straight face as the Emperor. Lee Bright is amiable in the title role, and Storm Skyler McClure is lovely as Princess Jasmine – so much so that you walk away wishing she’d had a few more songs to sing.
The costumes are great – and McClure gets some of the finest. The best moment in the whole performance was the half-whispered “Wow!” from the little boy next to me when Princess Jasmine first took the stage – a moment which captured everything that panto represents when it is done as well as this.
In other words, Aladdin is a panto which completely reflects the venue, always the most welcoming around, with easily the region’s best ushers. So much about theatre is the welcome you get – and Bognor always gets it right. If pantos are about hooking young audiences, this is the way to do it.
Tickets are available from http://alexandratheatre.co.uk/