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Theatre Review A panto let down by inconsistent writing and direction

Aladdin  
Lyric Hammersmith, London  

 

LIKE the proverbial football match of two halves, this patchy panto takes on highly different aspects before and after the interval.   

In the section up to the break there’s barely a memorable moment. The custard pie slapstick is limp, the music is uninspiring and the jokes are weak, with some strangely out of date “current affairs” cracks for the adults.   

In general there’s little for young or old to get stuck into, especially as it takes far too long to reach the animating point where Aladdin finally goes into the cave to search for his magic lamp. Mulled wine at half-time was a blessed relief.  

After the intermission, however, a barnstorming pantomime miraculously breaks out. Kickstarted by a magical musical scene in which Aladdin (Qasim Mahmood) and Princess Jasmine (Ellena Vincent) take a starry flying carpet ride into the rafters, all of a sudden the audience becomes excited and the actors hit their stride.  

Aided by Vincent, who is by far the strongest force in the show, and abetted by Gracie McGonigal, who puts in a bright effort as Wishy Washy, the action starts to move along at an energetic pace – and the old panto standards of call and response become infused with vigour, both off stage and on.    

With a touching story ending and a big musical finish, by the time the curtain comes down much has been done to rescue what could have been a horribly damp squib.   

Why should there be such a difference between front and back? Possibly the players take too long to warm themselves up, but more likely it’s down to a lack of consistent quality in the writing by Vikki Stone – whose first panto script this is – and in the direction by Abigail Graham.   

Both show in the second half that they can deliver the goods, but in the first there’s just too much that’s below par.   

Runs until January 2 2022: lyric.co.uk

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