Aladdin, The Hawth panto - review

The Aladdin cast
The Aladdin cast

There are not many things that are guaranteed in life - but a spectacular and hugely entertaining Hawth panto is one of them.

Each year the Hawth's panto just seems to get funnier, bigger and better and as producers Paul Hendy and Emily Wood put in their programme notes 'the pantomimes here are fast gaining a reputation for being the biggest and best in Sussex'.

This year's production is Aladdin and the setting is perfect for spectacular sets and costumes - and that's exactly what we get here.

There are all the staple elements - the scary bench, the pun-filled sketch, the use of popular songs with different lyrics (La La Land, Wicked, Legally Blonde, Bruno Mars and Jekyll and Hyde all get the treatment) and the reference to topical news (of course, Brexit got a mention!).

The cast are, as always, top notch. Shaheen Jafargholi and Emily made a sweet pairing as Aladdin and Princess Jasmine while Ian Jones (Wishee Washee) and Richard Franks (PC Pongo) did a great job at entertaining the younger member of the audiences.

Jess Robinson as the Spirit of the Ring and Nathaniel Morrison as the Genie of the Lamp provide some wonderful singing and dancing - with the former's impressions a big hit with the crowd.

But the stars of the show are Michael J Batchelor as Widow Twankey and Craig Revel...sorry, Jason Gardiner as Abanazar. If there is a better Dame on the panto circuit than Batchelor I would be shocked. His comic-timing (Ginster's Paradise anyone?) and audience interaction are perfect - but it's all about the dresses. They are a character themselves - and what makes it incredible is that he designs and makes them all himself. Astonishing.

And Gardiner is a revelation as Abanazar. I was surprised there was any scenery left as he chewed it all up every time he was on stage. He could obviously dance, but the singing, comic-timing and acting was top notch.

The Hawth panto is always a highlight of my Christmas and you should make it one of yours.

Aladdin is on at the Hawth until January 6. For more information or to buy tickets please visit the Hawth's website
* Please note that due to Dancing on Ice commitments, Jason Gardiner will not be performing on 18 December at 2pm and both performances on 6 January.

Estimated Running time: 2 hours 20 minutes