Stars explained: * A production of no real merit with failings in all areas. ** A production showing evidence of not enough time or effort, or even talent, and which never breathes any real life into the piece – or a show lumbered with a terrible script. *** A good enjoyable show which might have some small flaws but has largely achieved what it set out to do.**** An excellent show which shows a great deal of work and stage craft with no noticeable or major flaws.***** A four star show which has found that extra bit of magic which lifts theatre to another plane.
Half stars fall between the ratings

Aladdin and Jasmine

Rachael Louise Pickard as Aladdin with Abigail Bennett as Princess Jasmine


Hall Green Little Theatre


Goodies, baddies, a mischievous panda, a girl who is a boy, or a boy who is a girl depending upon wind direction, and a buy one get one free offer on genies – yes, it’s panto time.

Hall Green have gone for traditional festive fare, complete with all the trimmings including Rachel Louise Pickard in the eponymous role. There is something very satisfying about an old style principal boy and she gives us a slightly tongue in cheek performance as she battles the evil baddy Have a Banana . . .

Pardon? You Sure? All right if you say so . . .

. . . as she battles baddy Abanazar, even though I am sure that is not what he said his name was.

Anyhow James Weetman gives us a rather sinister sort of black clothed wizardy chap, lots of manic laughs and a crystal ball that seems to struggle in getting a signal. To be honest he is less frightening here than he was, or at least his bowels were, when he recently played Owen in The Vicar of Dibley.

He wants to rule the world and have his wicked way with Princess Jasmine, played demurely by Abigail Bennett. She in turn has the hots for Aladdin . . . well warms really, as it never really got to hots, this being a family show.

Aladdin in turn fancies HRH, which, as it is a capital offence to merely gaze upon the princess, mean he is lucky to even make it to the end of Act I after their relationship is discovered by the Emperor of China, played in a matter of fact way by Steve Brear, who seems to order beheadings at the drop of a hat – usually with a head inside them.

The Emperor’s wishes are enforced by what appear to be rejects from the Nobby and WisheeKeystone Cops, Sgt Ping, played for laughs by Matt Ludlam, and PC Pong, played with a lovely comic touch by Jean Wilde, last seen as Shirley Valentine.

But what is a panto without a dame, and stepping in to the over the top frocks, with enough pancake, rouge and lipstick to paint a small cottage, and “Ohh Ahh Missus” all round is Roy Palmer, who has had dresses on an off, in panto I hasten to add, for some 35 years.

And he flounces his way through the action, spreading chaos wherever he goes, helped, or hindered, by Richard Scott, giving us a likeable soul as Wishy Washee, the laundry boy who meanders through life with pet panda Nobby, played in an excellent costume – which probably doubled as a sauna – by Amanda Grant.

Amanda Grant as Nobby and Richard Scott as Wishee Washee

Nobby, Wishee and Twankey had a nice song routine, with Wishee battered every verse, which the children enjoyed – don’t they just love violence to other people? – and then there was a fun search for Twankey’s missing lucky Chinese 50p which was supposed to see six children brought up from the audience for a little interview. As it was 15 turned up giving Roy a whole new scene to ad lib and battle his way through - the 35 years’ experience served him well.

Rub lamp or ring and out would pop Katherine Williams, y’all, as Genie of the lamp or Katie Drivers as Genie of the Ring – pity a few pyrotechnics were not used to make their entrance more dramatic but they played their part, from the very start, time after time, speaking in  . . . sorry, it’s catching.

The set worked well, particularly the cave scene which changed effectively from outside to inside in an instant helped some clever lighting by Paul Hartop and Palmer again, although Aladdin’s magic carpet ride from Peking to Egypt might need a tad of adjustment here and there if it is to be effective..

As always Geddes Cureton was the maestro on the piano. He is a superb accompanist and fills in with incidental and chase music as if born to it which all helps to keep up a decent pace even in scene changes.

Directors Christine Bland and Roy Palmer have done a fine job in producing a traditional panto which will appeal to young children, who excitedly cheered, booed and sang along, yet there is still enough to amuse and entertain adults with nothing to shock maiden aunts or frighten the horses. Good traditional fare for all the family. To 17-12-16

Roger Clarke


Home Reviews A-Z Reviews by affiliate