I am a pantomime aficionado. “Oh yes I am!” This is due to that fact that my birthday falls on the 4th January and as a child my nana would take me to the Hull Theatre Royal to watch the panto. We would always sit in a box and they would read out my name and wish me happy birthday.
My now 8 year old, The Menace, loves Christmas. In fact she loves any calendared celebration that enables her to eat sweets, gift wrap, or dress up to celebrate; or in a perfect world do all of those things at once. Panto is a perfect accoutrement to her Christmas celebrations.
This is my first Panto at Salisbury Playhouse and we were told that the performance was two and a half hours long. Well strike me down – could I even manage so much Christmas saccharine in one evening? Was it going to be death by panto torture?
We had perfect seats – G20, 21, 22 – in case you were wondering. We were literally slap bang in the middle of the auditorium with a perfect view of the stage. The stage is open and reaches out into the audience, there is little room for error from the cast. Yes, literally one slip and their underwear would be instantly on display. This, however, does invite the audience into the show so there is no barrier between us and the performers.
Aladdin (Tyler Fayose) is a traditional fun filled pantomime, set in China’s old Peking. The story is centred around the poor widow Twankey (Richard Ede), her son Aladdin and their adventures. Aladdin is infatuated with the Emperor’s (Fred Broom) daughter Jasmine (Rebecca Hazel), his quest for wealth is thwarted by the arrival of his arch enemy and villain Abanazer (Lynden Edwards) the wicked magician.
Writer, Andrew Pollard has tailored the script specific to Salisbury so it’s loaded with local gags and politcal twists. The performances are fast paced, slapstick, cheesy and genuinely funny. Yes, I actually laughed out loud. Richard Ede has gone ‘panto Dame’ early so Widow Twanky is lean, wylie, full of energy and presents a caustic agility to the comic centre piece of the show. Twanky is wonderfully accompanied by the Emperor, who adds a delightful Laurel and Hardy style double act to the comedy ensemble. There was one hilarious moment when I thought they were actually going to actually snog each other. Fortunately, we were all spared.
Lynden Edward’s, Abanazer is utterly evil and Jasmine is the perfect princess who can definitely hold a tune, with some Kung Fu moves (although they delivered more in the style of Miss Piggy rather than Kickass.)
The Green (Nerine Skinner) and Purple (Melissa Brown-Taylor) genies bring some magic and sparkle. With fabulous entries and exits. The Green Genie delivers many complex lines with energy and humour, earning her the most honoured position of being The Menace’s favourite character.
The piece de la resistance is the magic of the flying carpet which levitates convincingly above the stage so well that secretly we are all hoping that Tyler Fayose is actually clipped on by the seat of his pants.
The best bit, apart from Tyler Fayose’s abs, are that the majority of the songs are well known pop songs so that you can sing along as the cast belt them with great costumes and shape busting moves; including Take That’s Shine and Katy Perry’s Firework to name two. This makes it all the more endurable, ahem, I mean enjoyable!
And the cast are actors that can actually act – not a reality show faux celebrity in sight. Well this is Salisbury, darling – what do you expect?! And the time flew by. I didn’t look at my watch once! So if you want you some slapstick family fun to sing and jiggle along in your seat with, then I highly recommend this year’s panto, Aladdin, at Salisbury Playhouse – OH YES I DO!!!!!
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