Aladdin

Production: Aladdin
Venue: Vanburgh Bowl
Rating: * *

Will Seaward’s last hurrah and the first Pantsoc production in summer, Aladdin: Abanazar strikes back faced a number of difficulties. A seemingly universal adoration for Seaward did not exculpate The Peter Pantomime from being proclaimed overlong and tedious, and you can’t help but think that the majority of people who would enjoy seeing what is essentially ill-structured tomfoolery are likely to already be part of the society.

Ebbing between volume settings of ‘loud’ and ‘louder’, the panto was like being shouted at for two hours. The setting in modern Agrabah and the idea of media invading the lives of celebrities felt shovelled-in. The joke about Nicola from Girls Aloud is years old, exemplifying the fact that whenever the panto veered from the weird and surreal into jibes about modern culture, it didn’t really work. Some of the staging was lazy (perhaps intentionally, as Seaward’s interjections provided some of the funnier moments), but a scene in which a lot of the characters are bound together, having to shuffle around the stage, was painful.

A character unable to cope with the ‘jelly’ he was carrying was a good Boosh-like touch, and both the effeminate genie (Paddy Fysh) and lecherous dame (Marc Vestey) were excellent. Pantsoc’s scripts, though, need both a bit more inspiration and a far more brutal edit.

8 comments

  1. An interesting review… the comment about the volume being either “loud” or “louder” seems a bit bizare considering the show was performed outside on a windy day – it was an achievement that the dialogue didn’t get lost like it could have done.

    Secondly it should be noted that panto isn’t meant to be serious satire – we don’t really try to create “jibes at modern culture”. We just take the mic. We send up everything, from the media to girls aloud jokes, to jelly, to ourselves.

    Thirdly I think this review should have at least mentioned some of the show’s (pretty big) achievements – the beautiful and wonderful 26 foot high set, the likes of which the University has never seen before being one of them. The fact that for many of the cast this was their first time on stage ever being another.

    Thirdly, over 500 people came to see the panto which seems to negate your point that the only peolpe who would want to see “ill – structured tom-foolery” are in the society already.

    Lastly I’d like to say I’ve heard (and overheard) a lot of positive comments – “I usually hate panto but that was fantastic” is an example. So if this review wont publically say it, I will – cast and crew of Aladdin – well done for putting so much of your time and effort into putting on York’s first ever Summer Panto – it was a success.

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  2. My god. Get a sense of humour.

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  3. Hello, this is long.

    I was Widow Twanky in Aladdin. I co-wrote The Peter Pan … tomime with David Crosby and played Captain Hook. I was Giselle of Gisbourne in Robbin’ Hood and helped write some of the songs. I had numerous parts in Cinderella in 2006, including one of the ‘full monty’ strippers in the party scene (about 300 people saw my penis that night). I have seen Berwick Kaler at the Theatre Royal, and participated in the (successful) ‘most pantomime dames in one place’ world record attempt. When I was a child I went to see the pantomime every year at the Lyceum theatre in Sheffield, and can’t even remember how many I went too. But I definitely saw Cinderella with Jim Davidson (so I have suffered for panto), Cannon and Ball in Cinderella, Sue Pollard in Dick Whittington, Aladdin and Babes in the Wood (although I can’t remember who was in those but one of them might have been Danny La Rue). What I am trying to say is, I know my pantomimes! If Will Seaward is the King of Panto, then I proclaim myself the Prince of Panto (I request that all my friends now call me that please).

    Now, I never had my two pennies worth when the Peter Pan review was slightly critical, I meant to but never got round to it. However, for some reason it has been brought up again, so I have decided to make time. Peter Pan wasn’t perfect and myself and Davey are the first to concede this. There were some jokes that didn’t work as well as we’d hoped, and a few things we would have changed, but “proclaimed overlong and tedious”!!! Says who?! Beth Gandy?! Did you actually see it or are you just presenting what was written in Nouse last time by somebody else as your own opinion? Peter Pan was anything except tedious. I have heard (and overheard – which is the most telling) nothing but praise for it. I was also there myself, being in it and all, and seem to remember quite a lot of laughter and enjoyment from the audience. I watched many of the scenes from the back and from the wings and if people hadn’t been laughing when they were supposed to you’d think I would have noticed. But they bloody did laugh, a lot, Beth Gandy was clearly in the minority. Peter Pan was long, but it was not overlong. It was three hours including the interval, Robbin’ Hood was three hours. Cinderella was three hours. The Theatre Royal Pantomime was well over three hours. Almost every pantomime I have ever seen has been at least two and a half hours long. Pantomimes are long! If you are expecting to be out in an hour and three quarters then don’t bother coming. If ‘long’ is the best criticism you can make then you should think about how much you should actually be criticising. Three hours of a comedy show that mostly worked, and it did, is better value for money than can warrant complaint. You could always spend £40 going to see Ricky Gervais for fifty minutes if you prefer.

    I also resent your claim that Pantsoc’s scripts need more inspiration. The Peter Pan and Aladdin scripts have been unilaterally praised as being fantastic. Even in the Peter Pan review, Nouse gave praise to this, saying “quite a clever script made this a memorable production.” To write any sort of script that holds up for an entire show is bloody difficult, and to do so whilst having a dissertation to write simultaneously is phenomenal and Matthew did a bloody good job! Aladdin was very different for everyone in Pantsoc. Not being in Central Hall, on a tiny stage, with the audience lazily spread around Vanbrugh bowl, knowing that the lovely British weather may cause any careful planning turn and face tits up, is a disconcerting thought. None of us really knew had the atmosphere and dynamic between the audience and performers would be changed, so to an extent we really played it by ear. But it did work, I know for a fact that the majority of the audience enjoyed the show that is all that matters in a pantomime. It was funny and the people laughed; your review seems not to be conscious of these things. Like many people have said of this review and that of the last panto, you seem to be completely missing the point.

    Finally, I have a massive complaint concerning some comments made about Peter Pan. “The show contained too many borderline homophobic jokes for our liking”! To say we were homophobic is absolutely disgusting, disgraceful and should not have been printed. I don’t think this has been made a big enough deal of. You cannot say that we are homophobic without any specific, concrete evidence or examples to back it up. It is a very serious claim and I totally resent the allegation. It was not homophobic in the slightest! The pirates were gay. That is not homophobic. Surely everyone knows that pantomimes have stock characters?! The job of Pantsoc is to play with and send up these stock characters so as to still be entertaining to an entirely adult audience. The ‘seedy transvestite’ referred to by Beth Gandy is the most famous stock character. The dame is a man playing a woman who usually makes crude jokes and innuendo that go over children’s heads. We made her overly rude and sleazy on purpose and Matthew Lacey did it brilliantly. There is always a bit of a wimpy pathetic boy sidekick character and a heroic male played by a woman, we played with these by making Peter the wimp and his sidekick character Gutso the heroic man-woman. The baddie has a thorn-in-the side underling and so on and so on. There is also supposed to be someone as camp as Christmas, who goes about being effeminate and gay and happy all over the place. We sent this up by having four of them, very camp, very effeminate and very limp-wristed. I fail to see how this makes us homophobic and it says something of your journalism to resort to such a ludicrous, sensational allegation when there is clearly nothing to back it up with. There were homosexual people in the cast and crew. I knew homosexual people in the audience. None of them thought it was seriously homophobic. Saying such a thing is potentially damaging to the reputation of the society and myself and Davey personally. Things like this do not belong in student reviews. (I have been waiting for some sort of apology or retraction of this comment by somebody, and I was hoping I wouldn’t have to ask … it’s been six months … ho hum … I’ll keep waiting).

    Well done to everybody involved in Aladdin, Peter Pan and anybody who has ever been brave enough to perform in public.

    This comment took me two hours- I’ve wasted my life!

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  4. Liam, you sure get my vote of no confidence.

    The script was full of plot-holes and was by no means perfect.

    However, your frequent usage of polysyllabic words neither obfuscates nor exculpates your flagrant lack of genuine reflection regarding the nature and quality of Aladdin — both a script and a production.

    Still, a review is a review, and you make fair comments — re: staging, volume etc — and express your opinion regarding the handling of the themes. What’s more, stars should NEVER be handed out because (cue to patronising voice) “they’re ONLY students and they all worked so hard.”

    Yet, I find it difficult to believe that the (to say the least) STRIKING 25 foot-high set and the innovatory quality of the FIRST EVER SUMMER PANTO as well as its SUCCESS (over 500) did not make it to the review, but that an inapropriate pretentious implication that PantSoc-ers are somehow inferior for appreciating what you perceive to be “ill-structured tomfoolery” DID.

    Surely, that WON’T impress the Guardian.

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  5. Marc, I can’t personally retract the comments made in the Peter Pantontomime review as I didn’t write it, suffice to say i didn’t believe it to be homophobic. I stand by my thoughts that Aladdin was charming rather than funny, however.

    ‘Kimberley’, perhaps what you expect from a 200 word review is a list, nicely subdivided into ‘things that were good’, and ‘things that were bad’. A stage isn’t something that the audience should really be grateful for, and the ‘success’ of a production hardly indicates its merit. Additionally, the process of writers from other media societies commenting on Nouse stuff, when our writers generally have the good grace not to do the same to articles that could potentially be crucified, should stop.

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  6. Athough I would love to stand by Liam on his review of the Panto, I’m afraid I didn’t bother to waste my money on a ticket after having to listen to 6 hours worth of ‘theatatrical speeches’ at Vanbrugh Stalls all week by Will Seaward and his motley crew…”come to the panto” “a pantomime in summer time?!” “What? Only £3.50” etc etc. Marvellous.

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  7. Liam, I commented on this article as a member of Pantsoc and as a cast member (which dmittedly, shows a conflict of interest, for anyone in Pantsoc will be biased in favour of panto!) and NOT as someone involved in another student media outlet. By all means go and crucify any articles — comments exist to allow such discussion :)

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  8. 15 Jul ’08 at 4:17 pm

    Matt Hawkins aka Jellyman

    Hello

    I’m afraid that I must own up to the fact that I wrote ‘Aladdin: Abanazar Strikes Back’ so I’m the one to ‘blame’ for the two stars. First of all let me thank you Liam for this review, and tell you thst I’ve cut out a copy from Nouse and carry it around in my wallet to show to all of my friends! Unfortunately I don’t have many because too much of my tomfoolery is ill-structured.

    I’m gonna pick up on two points and leave it there because everyone’s entitled to their opinion. That was yours and this is mine.

    I’m going to stick up for the previous production of ‘The Peter Pan…tomime’. It was quite long, yes. But I don’t think that it’s fair that the length is what you pick up on. Pushing on for 3 hours it was a long pantomime indeed, but I can honestly say that from the people I spoke to afterwards (people I knew and people I didn’t) that was never the main coment they had to make. It was a startlingly successful and funny panto that I was proud to be part of. I’ll bet good money that no one felt like they had wasted £3 when they left Central Hall after the show. The cheers and applause we got were heart-warming and gratifying to our efforts and hopefully an indication of how much the audience enjoyed our production.

    Despite this, Nouse seems to pick up on, not how much people enjoy the performance, but the plot, subtext and ‘homophobia’??? While the criticisms in this review are different it seems to me that it’s a review not concentrating on the right things.

    I am speaking for my pantomime now, and can’t speak for any others, but I designed mine to be whimsical, non-sensical and above all: funny. I created Aladdin’s National Union of Students (ANUS), included a half-man half-beetle creature and myself became a ‘Jellyman’ (thanks for my mention!). Let me assure that plot was almost the last thing on my mind because I believed that the last thing people wanted from a panto was a serious message or attack on culture, student life, etc (though I assure you that I could have taken a good swipe at Nouse if you’re tired of feeling left out. Perhaps a ‘Pretentious Journalist’ who uses words like ‘exculpate’?) I designed mine to be two hours of fun.

    Perhaps in the future Nouse can send a reviewer who is up for having a laugh, instead of trying to seriously critique something which is made for exactly the opposite purpose.

    Matt

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