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Published by: Steve Burbridge on 3rd Dec 2011 | View all blogs by Steve Burbridge

Widow Twanky and Wishy Washy 3.JPG


The Customs House, South Shields

For me, the festive season officially begins when I review my first pantomime or Christmas show – and I cannot think of a more magical or wondrous way to kick things off than this year’s production of Aladdin at The Customs House, South Shields.

As tradition dictates, the cast is led by Ray Spencer MBE and Bob Stott as Tommy Wishy-Washy and Widow Dotty Twanky, respectively. The linchpins of ‘the little panto with the big heart’ are joined by fellow stalwarts Peter Darrant (The Evil Abanazar) and Graham Overton (Sultan Sanddancer), whilst Afnan Ifthikar (Genie) returns for a third consecutive season and Alice Brown (Princess Amira) performs in her second. Steven Lee Hamilton (Aladdin), Iain Cunningham (PC Hacker) and Ryan Lynch (PC Blaggitt) all make a welcome return to the South Tyneside venue, having previously appeared in pantomime at The Customs House, whilst Christina Berriman-Dawson (Slave of the Ring) joins the team for the first time.

Of course, everyone knows the rags-to-riches tale of the poor, but honourable, laundry boy who defeats an evil sorcerer and wins the heart of a beautiful princess. However, I doubt that you’ll have ever seen the story told with as much zip, charm and attack. Indeed, the sheer energy, enthusiasm and effort, evident on stage, enchanted and mesmerised the audience in equal measure and had spirits soaring higher than Aladdin’s marvellous magic carpet.

The production values associated with this technically ambitious production are second to none. Paul Shriek is to be commended for his riotously colourful comic-book sets and the vast array of costumes which vary from being bold and bright to outrageous and outlandish to gloriously garish, depending upon which character is wearing them. The script, co-written by Graeme Thompson and Ray Spencer, contains more slapstick, comedy capers, crafty cons, sing-along songs, silly jokes and festive frolics than you can shake a seasonal stick at and it sparkles as brightly as the legendary jewel of Jarrow.

Solid performances are delivered from each and every member of the cast. Ray Spencer and Bob Stott lead in the comedy stakes, with their inimitable brand of madcap mayhem being delivered in the style of true vaudevillians. They are ably supported by Graham Overton as the bumbling Sultan and Iain Cunningham and Ryan Lynch as the inept policemen. Steven Lee Hamilton, who is carving himself an impressive career in the world of musical theatre, shines brightest during his musical numbers, whilst Afnan Iftikhar has been perfectly cast as the Genie of the Lamp and puts in the best performance I have ever seen him deliver. Alice Brown and Christina Berriman-Dawson take two roles which could easily be overlooked, that of Principal Girl and Slave of The Ring, respectively, and make them absolutely integral. And only Peter Darrant could play Abanazar with more mince than a Dickson’s pie and still keep the character sinister and menacing.

This production of Aladdin is packed with magic and mystique and contains more Eastern promise than a certain well-known brand of Turkish Delight. So, climb aboard your magic carpet or take a rickshaw ride to The Customs House and experience some real treasure of the Orient.

Steve Burbridge.

Aladdin runs until Saturday 7 January 2012.







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