Genius production: Review of Aladdin at Gala Theatre, Durham
Sunderland's Neil Armstrong and his collaborator in pantomime fun Paul Hartley have written, directed and star in another hit with Aladdin at Durham’s Gala Theatre.
The first thing that strikes you is the number of Christmas jumpers and festive attire in the audience and the loyal support these two have created in over a decade of their Durham panto legacy. Armstrong, in particular, as Abanazar, is a dastardly baddie the youngsters (and oldsters) just love to boo.
Silliness, jokes and laughter are the order of the day. There's no gimmicks (apart from a flying carpet that comes out into the audience), just a strong storyline of good against evil and mayhem from start to finish.
We open with Abanazar, imprisoned in an Egyptian pyramid with four mummies, and his bid to escape.
Using a magic ring he and his four young collaborators are transported to China where we meet Wishy Washie, his mam and laundry boss Widow Twanky (Paul Dunn), Aladdin (David Hosie), Princes Jasmine (Eleanor Chaganis), Chief Inspector Tai Chi (Kylie Ann Ford), The Genie ( Laura Lonsdale) and four dancers.
Hartley's charm as Wishee Washee is seen throughout but a delightful quicksand routine has the place in hysterics while the spitting camel provoke a similar response. Widow Twanky's broad Sunderland accent is lovely to hear, with Paul Dunn garnering every drop of comedy from the intonation and nuances of his native tongue.
A live band adds resonance to the occasion.
Aladdin's plans to make his town rich are threatened by Abanazar’s greed and quest for world domination. Can Aladdin stop Abanazar's treachery and make Princess Jasmine fall in love with him? And, to make it more complicated, can Aladdin evade Tai Chi who is trying to hunt him down? You'll just have to go and find out! It's well worth the effort.
By Ed Waugh
*Aladdin runs until Sunday, January 5. This includes British Sign Language performances on Thursday, January 2, at 1pm (also captioned).