Boys and girls, can I tell you secret?
Despite having lived in Colchester for nearly twenty years, I have never seen a Mercury Theatre pantomime… wait, why are you booing?!
In the time I’ve lived in Colchester, I’ve heard countless fantastic things said of the Mercury’s famed pantos and now I know this was with good reason. Having seen this year’s Aladdin, I will ensure I never make the mistake of missing one again.
Fine Time Fontayne and Daniel Buckroyd (who also directed) have put together a stonking script; fast-paced, up to date and with plenty of jokes for young and old. Buckroyd’s direction ensures the action keeps up with the script with smooth transitions and a clear sense of momentum throughout. The choice of music puts together an eclectic and thoroughly enjoyable soundtrack to the show including hits from Uptown Girl to Uptown Funk.
The set and costumes, designed by Juliet Shillingford, are big, bold and beautiful, rich with reds and golds, and complemented by Matthew Eagland’s lighting to bring Old Peking to life – particular highlights include the enormous Twankomatic and a truly fantastic flying carpet which had children and grown-ups alike oohing at the magic unfolding before them.
Glenn Adamson is a warm Aladdin half boy band attitude, half boy next door charm. He has a very strong voice and the couple of duets shared with Sarah Moss, as Jasmine, really give their impressive vocals a chance to shine. Sarah’s Jasmine starts out as a little resistant to father Emperor Eric Won-Ton (Mercury veteran Tim Freeman) and his desires to see her married off to a rich suitor but by the end of the show, she has really blossomed into a girl-power powerhouse, facing off with the baddie for herself and then leading the cast in a fantastic encore number, supported by the brilliant ensemble, led by Gracie Lai and Colin Burnicle. This pair particularly shine in a beautiful dance duet accompanying Jasmine and Aladdin’s romantic version of Ed Sheeran’s Thinking Out Loud.
The baddie, Abanazer, is played by another Mercury stalwart, Ignatius Anthony, with aplomb and Ignatius seems to take great pleasure in really riling up the kids, winning himself some of the loudest boos I can remember hearing at a panto. His Abanazer is amusingly self-assured, and more than a little camp, but best when berating the audience, especially for their inability to accept his somewhat transparent disguises.
Laura Curnick as the Spirit of the Ring is cheeky and cheery, coming up with solutions to almost everyone’s problems. Named Siri, “as in iPhone,” she proves herself much more reliable than her Apple-built namesake, especially in her other role with Simon Pontin as Peking Palace Policemen Ping and Pong. Their slapstick routines and back and forth humour seem an audience favourite and the fun they’re having comes across clearly. Pontin doubles as the Genie, whose slightly more straight-man persona is a welcome relief in the show. He sings brilliantly and the Genie’s entrance song, for me, ranks among the strongest in the show.
Dale Superville, or Superman I would suggest, is a storm of energy and giggles as Wishee Washee winning over the audience within seconds of taking the stage. His Wishee is the ultimate underdog and a real favourite of the kids. It’s no surprise I’ve heard talk of theatregoers calling to confirm whether he’s in the shows cast when they’re booking based on his performance in last year’s Cinderella. The laugh out loud funniest scene in the show was that of the aforementioned Twankomatic, an enormous laundry machine which devolves into chaos between Wishee and his mother, Widow Twankey. This Twankey, played by Antony Stuart-Hicks, is an acerbic, fourth-wall breaking delight. Equal parts glamour and gall, she takes no prisoners, targeting her wicked humour at everyone from crying children to fellow cast members and having a ball while she does it. I can only hope that Antony will join Dale in becoming a frequent Mercury panto performer.
In summary, this panto has absolutely everything you need for a seasonal smash, with a hilarious script, great songs, gorgeous visuals and a phenomenal cast. If you happen to stumble across a magic lamp… I’d suggest you use a wish to make sure you don’t miss it.
Review by Ben Powell
By Fine Time Fontayne and Daniel Buckroyd
Director Daniel Buckroyd
Designer Juliet Shillingford
Musical Director Richard Reeday
MERCURY THEATRE COLCHESTER
Hop on your magic carpet and join Aladdin at the Mercury Theatre Colchester for the adventure of a lifetime this Christmas!
Panto favourites Ignatius Anthony, Laura Curnick, Tim Freeman, Sarah Moss, Simon Pontin and Dale Superville are back along with some new faces. Taking on the role of Aladdin will be Glenn Adamson. Glen’s most recent role was in the national tour of Secret Love: The Doris Day Story. Making his Mercury Theatre dame debut will be Antony Stuart-Hicks. Gracie Lai and Colin Burnicle complete the cast.
Come with us to Old Peking where Aladdin dreams of marrying the beautiful Princess Jasmin and providing a better life for his mother, Widow Twanky, and brother, Wishee Washee. With the promise of an inheritance to make him as rich as a prince, the wicked magician Abanazer has tricked Aladdin into helping him find a magic lamp hidden in a secret cavern high in the hills. Aladdin soon finds himself trapped with only a battered old lamp for company. It’s only when he rubs the scruffy lamp that his adventure really begins! Will Widow Twanky find romance? Will Wishee Washee prove his worth? Will Aladdin finally marry Princess Jasmin? All will be revealed at the Mercury Theatre!
Artistic Director of the Mercury Theatre Daniel Buckroyd, will not only direct this year’s pantomime, he will also be teaming up with panto king Fine Time Fontayne to co-write the script.
Sat 28th November 2015 – Sunday 10th Jan 2016
Performance times vary