It seems fitting on the first day of advent that the bells and whistles panto offering from Newcastle Theatre Royal should be front and centre on the Culture pages. Sam Wonfor reports back (and books for next year).
MY five-year-old woke up this morning with three things he wanted to say... and every one of them started with: “And mum... (how he starts all sentences when I’m in the room) wasn’t it funny when Aladdin...”
That’s the magic of panto folks, and in particular, the long-resonating fairy dust of Newcastle Theatre Royal’s annual contribution to the art.
This year the long-serving cast, featuring father-and-son comedy force Clive Webb and Danny Adams, are telling the story of Aladdin (Adams), his lamp, Mr Twanky (Webb), the rotten (in the best possible way) Abanazar, Princess Jasmine, her grand dame of a mother (who has a wardrobe the cast of Priscilla Queen of the Desert would call OTT), a kidnap plot, King Kong, the Pyramids and the Geordiest Genie, who’s “ganna grant Aladdin three wishes, like”.
It’s a tale which serves as a glittering and upholstery-soaring vehicle for gags, slapstick, showiness, dance routines, costumes, magic tricks, special effects and poo jokes.
This team, which includes grand dame legend Chris Hayward as the Empress of China, Peking... and Wallsend and Steve Arnott as Abanazar, could pantomimely portray a story centred on the paint drying properties of beige Dulux – and I’d still buy a ticket.
This is panto at its most polished and it was a packed house who were on their feet as the curtain came down. The ovation even came from those in the first 10 rows, who had been water-bombed on several occasions throughout the two-and-a-half hour show by Adams’ cheeky hero Aladdin, who was a tour de farce .
With his signature giggle and get out clause (all together now) “Acciduurrnt!”; a collection of crowd-pleasing magic at his fingertips; funny walks and quick retorts; tap dancing and balloon-fighting skills; and a spellbinding ability to soar above the audience on a flying carpet, this fella took every scene and did a comedy sprint.
(By the way, if you heard a little voice shouting: “I’ve never seen anyone do THAT before!” during the auditorium flight, I’m proud to say that you’ve heard my little fella, who was so taken with proceedings, we went home with sweets left over. Really).
It’s Clive and Danny’s eighth year as the epicentre of the Theatre Royal’s festive offering, and they couldn’t look more at home. It takes a brave duo to rewrite the Blaydon Races using a Chinese takeaway menu...
I won’t spoil any more of the surprises, but safe to say I wouldn’t mind betting the box office are feeling the pressure for the 2013 telling of Jack and Beanstalk. I have a feeling one five-year-old will be sourcing my credit card and mobile phone as we speak.
Aladdin plays Newcastle Theatre Royal until January 19. Call 08448 112121, or visit www.theatreroyal.co.uk for tickets.