Retro Review: Aladdin at the Theatre Royal, Windsor

Aladdin at the Theatre Royal, in Windsor (Dec 2009)

This was the second pantomime I have had the pleasure of seeing, and the first traditional incarnation. (The first was Beauty and the Beast at the Lyric, Hammersmith and was fabulous but v. modern). So there were sparkly costumes and songs randomly selected from various popular culture sources and there was choreography that was pretty good and smoke effects and an Aladdin who was truly atrocious.

Sorry, I realise that it is convention to have a lass playing the male lead and I have no problem with cross-dressing (go for it, if it is your thing). BUT... even if it is a tongue in cheek casting for the audience to know that the male-youth is female it should still be well enough performed that the chemistry and workings of the play itself should make sense. Having a sexed-up girl in tights and heels (!) of all things does NOT work. The actress was clearly too busy trying to be herself playing a boy, rather than playing a boy. It showed considerable lack of respect for the character, audience and the panto itself. In contrast the actor who played the dame role was fabulous, he clearly knew how to tow the lines between gender roles on the stage.

There is also the trend for 'celebrities' to be in pantos. This I think is what ultimately informed the lead to be so unconvincing. She was busy upholding her status as runner-up-in-a-random-television-talent-show rather than playing a part. People who were 'theatre people' were much better. For instance, the actor playing Aladdin's brother was very impressive.

The whole thing was a motely concoction of random elements, story? what story? If it wasn't so much fun it could have been seriously bad! The best bit was a comedic take on 'The Twelve Days of Christmas' which was side-splittingly hilarious! The props were getting thrown, the singing was all over the place and the actors and the characters and the audience were having tremendous fun. The wierdest bit was when it finished with a song from High School Musical (We're all in this Together) and cheerleaders and pom-poms were prancing around the stage.

So great experience, over all. Any show that facilitates the audience boo-ing is alright in my book! (Even if sometimes you wish you had license to boo the hero)!